This article, by Jacqueline Felix, was originally published in the Arizona Daily Star on July 18, 2021.
You usually won’t find me at the front desk of your neighborhood library, but the work I do can be seen all throughout the library system. Sounds like a riddle, right? It’s not!
Some people may find it surprising how much needs to be done before a book ends up on our library shelves. Have you ever heard of cataloging? It’s the process of pulling relevant information (publisher, author, illustrator, even the measurements are important!) from an item and deciding where it fits into our collection of more than 1.1 million items!
Let’s say you like to read mystery novels so you go to your favorite library and explore their mystery section—seems simple enough, right? Now imagine that there was no mystery section but, instead, an assortment of books in no specific order. That’s where cataloging comes in—we make it easier for you to find materials!
I am the Interlibrary Loan Manager in the Technical Services Department. If you’re wondering what in the world that means, you’re not the first! Let’s just say that my job doesn’t make for simple conversation at the dentist’s office or while getting my hair cut. No, you won’t see me at the front desk of your neighborhood library, but if you were to visit me on the fourth floor of the Joel D. Valdez Main Library, you might find me neck deep in a mountain of books.
The books you’d find me (happily) drowning in are popular titles that the library leases from one of our vendors, Baker and Taylor, to meet customer demand. Yes, you got it… our Collection Development Department helps make sure you don’t have to wait years for that newest bestseller! Surprised you didn’t have to wait two years for James Patterson’s latest? We leased it. What about that Stephen King book you’ve been counting down the days for? Leased. The Diary of a Wimpy Kid book your child has been asking about since they finished the last one? Leased.
Once the leased books have fulfilled their holds, they start to make their way to my desk (AKA book mountain!), where I inspect and send them back so we can get new ones. During any given month, we call in about 2,000 leased books to return to the vendor. It’s fun to see what titles are popular with Library customers. In fact, most of the audiobooks I’ve listened to recently were titles that I discovered from working on leased books but, don’t worry, I waited my turn.
I’m also a backup delivery driver. Now listen, being a library delivery driver is not as easy as you might think. Sure, it’s a nice break from my usual desk duties. Sure, I get to listen to my podcasts while I drive around Tucson. Sure, I get to see many colleagues that I wouldn’t normally get to see. That’s all lovely, but delivery is hard. Our usual delivery drivers deserve major props because doing that every day in the Arizona heat is not an easy task. At first, driving the large delivery trucks was daunting but that’s not even the hardest part! I realize that this doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone, but books are heavy. And, when you have six boxes full of them stacked on each other and it’s your job to transport, unload, and deliver them, you really start to realize how heavy they are.
I’ve worked at PCPL for almost 6 years starting off as a page and now, a Library Associate. Most of what I do day to day has changed but no matter what it is I’m doing, I love that I’m able to serve my community. Sometimes, you can still find me filling in at your neighborhood branch. I hope to see you there sometime.
Jacqueline Felix has worked for Pima County Public Library since 2015. When she’s not wading through piles of books, she works on the Library’s LGBTQ+ Services Committee. She’s currently reading All Adults Here by Emma Straub.