Monday, March 14, 2011

Cataloguing, Processing and Repairing

I just finished learning about additional services for cataloguing and processing. The idea of using jobbers to process books and supply records was raised.  Many of the course participants were quite concerned about the cost per book associated with paying some-else to do the processing.  This make me feel there is a real false economy being developed in libraries. We see labour as limited yes, but we still use it as it were free.  We will spend a lot of time to save a few bucks from our local library budget not matter what the actual cost is in terms of labour.
I think as people working in the public sector and in the school systems we lose sight of the cost of labour. This is understandable since we have so little control over staffing and such budgets. How many of us have seen the total costs associated with staffing our libraries? We focus mostly on the actual money we see in our library accounts and make our economic decisions based on that which in the long term, I think, leads to poor value for dollar library practices. We have to work towards influencing and breaking the cycle of bad library economics. We need to look long-term on this issue.

Labour is very expensive. Calculate your own hourly rate and that of your library clerk and then spend a little bit of time with a stopwatch and see how long it takes to process a book completely and then calculate the labour cost. It is much more than you would expect. As teacher-librarians I think we need to have a good grasp of these figures and share this information with district level staff in charge of budget allocations. Having money in hand for the bit extra to have a jobber do some of this processing would allow librarians and clerks to more wisely invest there labour elsewhere. It could save money and free up limited staffing to valuable library tasks.

Let me repeat for the above--we need to take a long term view. I know we don't want to spend the money out of budgets for such processing. At the very least we can track how much processing is costing you terms of labour and library supplies and make your library and district aware of this. This should not be seen as a threat to clerk jobs either. There is plenty of nonstandard cataloguing and processing to go around. If we can't get enough pressure to bear to get more librarian and clerk time we can at least push to make the use of it more efficient. This is a way of getting more staffing time without increasing actual hours of staffing time just a marginal increase in library budgets.

Needless to say, I am a huge fan of jobbers such as Titlewave (beware-heavy American content) who provide free shipping and very good quality processing. Depending on your order you skip the Marc record but still get spine labelling and barcoding (you need to calculate not only your own labour cost but cost for toner, label and tape when you do it yourself). United Library Service is also an excellent Canadian Jobber.

As for rushing to get items on the shelf and patron's hands I think it is best to hold onto it and get it done right first. Once it is out in circulation it is too easy to lose track of it as an item that will be done later. In essence you are cataloguing twice when you make a brief record, only to have to re-catalogue again later. Every rule has an exception but I think in general handling something twice is too liberal an expenditure of limited labour.

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