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April 26, 2024

The Library Behind-the-Scenes: Access Services

What do librarians and library workers do all day? It’s not just sitting behind a desk reading a book! Get to know how the public library works behind-the-scenes! This year, we’ll highlight different departments and services the Hamilton East Public Library offers to give you an inside glimpse into how the library serves our community.

Today, Anita S., Director of Access Services, will answer some questions about what it’s like to work in Access Services for the Hamilton East Public Library.

Book carts

Items that have been sorted onto carts, ready to be shelved.

Q: Tell us about a typical day in your position in Access Services.

A: Access services is very much a behind-the-scenes department. On a typical day, our staff have very few interactions with patrons directly. Instead, our focus is getting materials into patrons’ hands as quickly as possible with as few barriers as possible. That process takes on many different forms! Assistants in our department operate the automated materials handling machine which sorts items as they are returned. The assistants sort the items onto carts, which pages then take out into the library space and shelve. This creates a very streamlined process, decreasing the time span from the moment an items is returned until it is back on the shelves for patrons.  

Our home delivery lead is busy preparing holds for delivery to patrons who cannot get to the library effectively removing that barrier to patrons’ access to the library. Another way we remove barriers to access of our materials is through curbside pickup. Our assistants also monitor appointments for curbside pickup, taking patrons their holds at our front doors.  

Outside the library, we oversee several microlibraries in the community. These are browsing collections for people who may not have direct access to our collections. Right now these microblibraries are housed in assisted living facilities throughout our service area as well as a preschool, a counseling center, and a youth sports center. 

But there is more than materials! We also provide patrons access to our meeting rooms through monitoring the reservation software and answering any questions patrons may have. 

So, to answer your question, no day is the same as the one before and it is full of lots of patron-centered activity! 

Q: What’s your favorite part of your job?

A: I am a helper at heart but I am also very much a systems thinker. This position gives me the opportunity to serve our patrons through efficient workflow systems. But it also appeals to my creativity by allowing me to find new ways to get materials into our patrons’ hands. Our team is very dedicated to our community and providing materials and services. It is very fulfilling!

Home Delivery bags

Materials ready for Home Delivery!

Q: What do people not realize about Access Services at the library?

A: We work with a robust and dedicated team of volunteers to provide home delivery to patrons who cannot access the library in-person, for whatever reason. Patrons place holds on the materials they would like, choosing Home Delivery as the pickup location. Once the holds are ready, they can go to our website to schedule their delivery! Once staff get the delivery ready, volunteers take the deliveries out into the community and deliver them to patrons. It’s a very exciting program and volunteers love to be involved with patrons in such a direct way!

Q: What kinds of people do you interact with in your position?

A: Honestly, I mostly interact with staff and data. Data helps us know what types of services we need to offer and how we can improve our existing services to best meet patron’s needs.


The automated materials handler reads the tags and sorts the materials by their location in the library.

Q: What’s the wildest thing you’ve received in the book return slot?

A: That’s a fun question! We get lots of personal items that folks have used for bookmarks like photos, tickets, gift cards etc. And we do try to return them!

Q: How does RFID tagging work in libraries?

A: RFID tagging is truly the greatest thing since sliced bread, at least to us! Those little stickers allow us to use a giant machine called an automated materials handler (“The Beast”) which reads the tags and sorts the materials by their location in the library. For example, all children’s picture books fall into their own bin. Adult fiction books fall into another, and so on. This allows our assistants to efficiently build carts of materials for the pages to shelve. Each cart has a limited number of like materials which allows the pages to go to specific areas of the library to shelve on each trip versus going all over the library. 

Thank you, Anita! Stay tuned to the HEPL blog each month to learn more about the library behind-the-scenes!