February 24, 2013
Wasting money in the public library service
There is a national book cataloguing operation into which all publishers supply information about their titles. It is then reviewed, edited and amplified, or even corrected by expert bibliographers and then it is used by all retailers, reviewers and various national databases. In the UK it is operated by Nielsen and in the US the main source is operated by Bowker. Most of the bibliographers are professional librarians
For the purposes of most consumer books and public libraries the information it contains is perfectly adequate to do the job. For academic and professional libraries there is a need for more detailed analysis
Books are classified in 'BIC standard categories' which have been created with the cooperation of librarians
Nowadays it is communicated in Onix files which are used by all the distribution systems in the international book industry
There is no need for any public library to revise these databases or create catalogue material of their own - let alone for 200 authorities in the UK to create their own bibliographic data - nor is there any need for them to reclassify material.
If all public libraries would accept standard classifications and use onix feeds; and if all public libraries would use identical 'processing' of books - rather than operating 200 different processing 'specifications' then there would actually be need for library suppliers or bibliographers.
Pulbishers' own distribution systems could create library ready books, if the process for changing a print book into a 'library ready' book were the same for every authority
We would save the vast cost of many warehouses and distribution networks and all the systems that operate within them
We would also save all the bibliographic costs and most of the processing costs that still go on library service back offices
In fact it would only be one further small leap to realise that most of the horrendous cost of 'inter-library loans' could be eliminated if libraries simply bought a new copy of any book that was ordered - in 95% of the cases that would work perfectly well and much more cheaply than what happens now
Part of what has destroyed the public library service is the barrier that lies between publishers and libraries - and the cost that is incurred in the the immensity of those walls that lie between them .. and these are because the operating systems of librariies and those of the rest of the book industry are so different
Librarians have been taught to believe that they can specify processes and systems to suit themselves without ever realising the immense cost of what they ask for . One only has to visit the processing line at Askews to watch how every single book has to be processed differently to the one before it and differently to the one after it - to realise how totally ludicrous the supply chain for public libraries is,
Posted by Perkins at February 24, 2013 4:53 PM
Library suppliers should have become extinct years ago. For years, the technology has been available to enable all bibliographic and loans information and a security tag to be stuck in a book by the receiving library.
Regarding covering books, for over a decade CoLibri Cover My Books Ltd. has been distributing a unique book covering system which will put a library quality, clear, polyethylene cover on any book in less than 30 seconds. The system does not need skilled operatives to use it and the newest version, the E-DaVinci is even quicker and easier to use. Using only three cover sizes with the desktop machine, the smallest branch library would be able to benefit from this system.
The world has changed since Library consortia were put together to give library authorities more buying power when negotiating with library suppliers. Over the years, library suppliers offered extra, "free" services, enabling authorities to steadily reduce the number of staff.
Today, most of the books in our libraries have been "selected" by the same people who sell them to the library authorities. This cannot be right.
Ideally, the power to choose what is placed on UK library shelves should be in the hands of local librarians who know their customers. This need not be at odds with the large library consortia, who could still negotiate for better terms on behalf of the libraries but would deal direct with publishers rather than an obsolete "middleman".
If local libraries regained control of the stock on their shelves, they would make sure they had what their customers want. This alone would help to re-enthuse librarians and help to bring back local libraries to the centre of the community.
Posted by: Alan at February 25, 2013 10:09 AM
Alan -- exactly right
but anyone can see that this is not a matter that politicians would readily understand - it has to be something that library management leaders initiate and carry through
So where are they - and where have they been? Goodness knows there have been enough committees and reviews and reports in which they were asked to participate
Posted by: perkins at February 25, 2013 11:06 AM