Let me start this post by saying that I adore the library. The library is THE SHIZZLE. You know what you can do? You can go online and ask for any book or movie or magazine or ANYTHING, and then click it, then they’ll find it and transport it to the branch of your choosing. Then you can pop by and just pick it up. FOR FREE.
I know, right? Purely amazing.
And if you are my husband, and more tech savvy than I, you can even install some software on your phone, and ask for a book online, then it is delivered to your phone, then you can read it anywhere at any time, then you return it with the click of a button, all for free, and you never even have to leave the couch. AMAZING.
So! We can all agree, the library is great, right?
I have just one fairly minor quibble to discuss here. Last week we wanted to check out Green Eggs and Ham, because next week we are going to the NAC’s concert Green Eggs and Hamadeus, and our kids have (AHEM) actually never read the book, and we figured it would give some good context (and, as Sir Monkeypants wisely pointed out, save us from having to answer a thousand questions DURING the concert, GAH).
So I went online to their awesome system, and looked up Green Eggs and Ham, and it was actually on the shelves at my local branch, which is Hazeldean. I immediately requested a hold on the book, because I wasn’t going to be able to physically get there for a few days and thought this way, they would, you know, hold it for me. Using the hold system.
Now, in a situation like this, what do you think is going to happen? I was number one on the holds list, there were more than 25 copies available throughout the library system, and there was one copy currently on the shelf at the branch I was going to do the pickup at.
Wouldn’t you think that, upon receiving this request, a librarian would be dispatched to walk over to the shelf, pull the book, and put it on the hold shelf?
I sure did, but the answer is no, that is not at all what happened. What happened was that my request went into the system, and the system decided the best thing to do was to transfer a book from a different branch. I kept checking the website, and it would keep saying that Green Eggs and Ham was still on the shelf, currently available, at Hazeldean; meanwhile, my hold copy was “in transit.”
Today I happened to be going to the library and Green Eggs and Ham was not waiting for me on the hold shelf – it was still marked as “in transit” online. So I checked in the kids’ section, and it wasn’t on the shelf there, either. So I went to ask the librarian if perhaps they had pulled it for me, but it hadn’t made it out onto the hold shelf yet, but could I just pick it up since I was there. I explained the whole story about how I had seen online that it was on the shelf, then put it on hold, but yet days later it still wasn’t on the reserved shelf waiting for me.
Then, I got a very polite lecture on how if I see a book is on the shelf in the branch I want, I should NEVER put it on hold, because it’s a waste of resources for the librarian to have to go over and pull the book off the shelf, when I could have just come in and picked it up. And then, she looked it up in the system, and discovered they actually did have the book in the library – it was on the Early Readers shelf, not the Picture Books shelf where I had looked – so she walked over, found it, and pulled it for me.
Now, nothing against the librarian, who was really very polite, and clearly was just trying to highlight to me one of her pet peeves, which is people who use the online request system to request books that are already in their home branch. But I do wish to ask the following questions:
1. Do you use the online request system? If so, have you ever used it just to put a hold on a book, instead of requesting a transfer? Do you think it’s inappropriate to use the request system for holds?
2. Do you think it is a waste of library resources to ask a librarian to pull a book that is just sitting there on the shelf? I really wanted to point out that it was almost as much work for her to look up the book, then walk over and find it on the shelf, then pull it for me, since I couldn’t find it on the shelf myself, anyway.
3. Do you think (leading question here) that a bigger waste of library resources is that the online request system apparently does not give top priority, when filling a request, to books that are already in that branch, but instead decides that an inter-branch transfer is more appropriate? I would love to know what the algorithm is here – are they grabbing a copy to fulfill the request from the first branch that has one, alphabetically? Or perhaps the branch that has had it checked out most recently? You would think that “closest branch” – and nothing could be closer than the actual branch – would be most efficient, wouldn’t you?