March 27, 2024

The Library Behind-the-Scenes: Collection 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, Joseph W., Director of Collection Services, will answer some questions about what it’s like to work in Collection Services for the Hamilton East Public Library.

Book carts

A row of book carts ready for processing.

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

A: Collection Services is responsible for bringing in materials, both physical and digital, and making them available to our visitors. On a normal day, you might find our selectors reading reviews and flagging titles to add, processors receiving those items and applying labels, and catalogers making these easily findable when searching online. Add in the regular rush of inter-library loans and maintaining online databases, and Collection Services is always busy getting items to our patrons who want and need them.

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

A: The most invigorating part of working here is being able to connect a patron with an item they want. I have worked in the department for six years and that has been a constant throughout. Collections Services plays a role in every step of the acquisition process, and it is always rewarding to know that our work leads to satisfied users of our space. This can be as obvious as providing a specific title for a specific person or as obscure as fixing a catalog record to make an item appeal to a wider audience. 

Labeling supplies on a shelf

Endless amounts of labeling supplies are needed for materials.

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

A: We process dozens of requests from patrons for items every day—and we are happy to do it! Some are straightforward while others are more involved, but all require us to do research into the best way to acquire the item, whether that is by purchasing or by borrowing from another library. If you are searching for something we do not have, we make it easy to request materials on our website or catalog. This is available to any of our cardholders and even applies to digital materials too! You can also see our responses to your requests in your account on our catalog.

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

A: For the most part, staff who work in Collection Services do not always get the chance to chat directly with our visitors. Instead, most of our communication is done behind the scenes, speaking with authors, vendors, and other library professionals about materials and how to include them in our system. The one time we do get to work directly with our patrons is when we respond to item requests.

A large stack of boxes

The Collections Services department receives several packages, full of materials, each day.

Q: What goes into the collection development process?

A: The root of collection development is about offering materials that our patrons want and need, whether that is for entertainment or education. Our material selectors spend hours reading library professional review magazines and choosing potential titles. Every item is evaluated against the selection criteria in our policy to determine if it is a good fit for our community. We weigh the benefit of an item against its cost to provide the best possible collection within our allotted budget.

Q: Where can people learn more about the materials available as a HEPL card holder?

A: We are very excited to roll out a new app in the coming weeks which will showcase our collection as well as the many other programs and services HEPL has to offer. In the meantime, you can still browse the catalog for physical items, apps like Libby or Hoopla for digital items, or navigate our suite of databases. Whenever you use any of these resources, remember that Collection Services was likely responsible for one or more steps it took to get it to you!

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