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Fairfax County, Virginia

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Behind the Scenes: Processing Department

 

Discover how library materials get dressed for their big debut on the shelves. 


By Dianne Coan, Division Director of Technical Operations


Once books are selected by collections staff, received by technical operations, and labelled and organized by catalogers, they pass next through the processing department.

Library processing department staff and booksPreparing to Circulate

Unlike books you purchase for yourself, getting a library book “shelf ready” requires substantial preparation. The library’s processing department readies materials to meet the specific needs of a circulating collection, which means all library books must be: 

  • Findable on the shelf: The processing team adds a spine label to each item displaying its particular call number.
  • Recognizable as library property: Ownership stamps and the barcode sticker prevent any confusion with a personal book from your own collection.
  • Uniquely identified among multiple copies: Each individual item barcode allows us to manage and track down a specific copy in a collection exceeding 2 million volumes.
  • Ready for the rough and tumble of frequent borrowing: Packaging such as mylar jackets help increase the longevity of library materials.

Precise standards are used in these preparations to ensure materials processed years apart have a consistent treatment; this helps expedite inventory and reduce error when checking out items.

Creating Nontraditional Packaging

In addition to books, the other types of items in the collection must be readied for circulation. This requires the creation of packaging that will stand up to repeated and frequent use, transfers from branch to branch, and perhaps a few tumbles in the book drop. FCPL’s Library of Things collection includes thermal cameras, nature backpacks, hands-on-history kits, video magnifiers, Chromebooks and more. The processing department is responsible for finding suitable cases and figuring out how best to handle multiple pieces and parts of these nontraditional circulating materials. 

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