When people hear the word “library” a few things typically come to mind; namely Librarians and books. But the Library is run by people working in many different roles. They’re all helping community members with much more than book recommendations. Our series Spend a Day with a Library Worker takes you inside the lives of Library staff in different roles and follows them on a typical workday.
There’s a lot that goes on in the basement of the Downtown Main Library. It’s a constant flutter of activity between shipping, distribution, cataloging, materials selection, marketing and more. Luke Stegall and his team make up a department whose work goes beyond the Library, the city, and even Hamilton County. They are responsible for sharing Library resources throughout the entire state through Library programs OhioLINK and SearchOhio, opens a new window as well as taking care of materials retrieval.
“SearchOhio and OhioLINK are free resource sharing services that over 100 public (SearchOhio) and academic (OhioLINK) libraries throughout the state of Ohio participate in,” explains Luke. “Their customers can request any of our circulating material and our customers can request any of theirs. These services play an important role in our ability to give our cardholders access to as much as we possibly can. While the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County’s collection is massive, being able to utilize so many other libraries’ collections greatly increases what we can provide. These services also allow access to expensive, obscure, and rare material that may be difficult or impossible for our customers to find otherwise.”
A typical day for Luke begins with a routine check of his emails and voicemail, tidying up any issues that have arisen from the day before. This includes hold transfers and tracking down hard-to-find materials. Issues like these pop up throughout the day, and it’s up to Luke and his team to find the solution.
Next, he processes outgoing materials. “We get multiple red bins of material from the branches and the Downtown Main Library return slots each morning and afternoon,” says Luke. “Library Pages in SMRT pull lists from the Downtown Main Library departments throughout the day. These items are either requested by customers elsewhere in the state or are being returned to the libraries that own them. Items are sorted onto our outgoing shelves by number. They are bagged for shipping using a mailing slip with a destination number to facilitate sorting in a different location.”
Then it’s time to deal with incoming material. Every weekday afternoon, a single shipment arrives from other SearchOhio/OhioLINK libraries. This delivery comprises material owned by other libraries that customers have requested and material owned by the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County that those libraries are returning.
“The incoming shipment varies in size daily, but usually between 80-100 bags full of material needs to be un-bagged and sorted,” says Luke. “We divide returning items into bins which are then further divided up in the Sorting Room. Requested material owned by other libraries is sorted out by item type and size to streamline the rest of the process.”
Everything is tagged and distributed by hand either to the proper department or marked for shipping out. The process can spill over into the next morning depending on the size of the shipment. There is never a dull moment!
“My favorite aspect of this job is the fascinating amount and variety of material that passes across my desk every day,” says Luke. “I regularly encounter books, music, and movies that interest me that I may never have heard of otherwise. I’m a nonstop user of SearchOhio and OhioLINK myself, and it’s satisfying to feel like people across the entire state are recommending my next request to me.”
From January 1-July 31, the SearchOhio/Materials Retrieval team had 96,775 individual items successfully passed through their department. In the month of July alone they fulfilled 7,554 lending requests to other libraries, 6,111 borrowing requests from customers of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, and sent out 958 bags of materials.
One of Luke’ most memorable moments on the job was when an employee of the Lexington, Kentucky Public Library called to learn about the kind of interlibrary loan system the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County currently participates in. “I explained that we no longer do traditional state-to-state service, but we are part of SearchOhio and OhioLINK,” says Luke. “After telling her more about them, with statistics, anecdotes, and my own enthusiasm, she was enthralled and I was proud to be the messenger. It’s easy to take these services for granted because they’ve been such a steady part of enriching my personal life and the entirety of my job for a while now, but taking a step back and looking at them objectively, I couldn’t help but be impressed. That moment has stuck with me.”
To access more information about SearchOhio and OhioLINK visit our website or click here, opens a new window.