Punching the Clock: Book smarts

After spending an afternoon at the Oxford Memorial Library, I came to an easy conclusion: Being a librarian is more complicated than it looks.

People may think putting books away, straightening shelves and checking books in and out is a laid-back job; it simply isn’t so. With a collection of well over 20,000 books, there is much more that goes on behind the scenes to make the library what it is.

Library Director Nancy Wilcox, along with one of the clerks Dee Beers, showed me the ropes of running a hometown library.

Like other libraries in Chenango County, Oxford is part of the Four-County Library System. What does this mean? That members can borrow books from other libraries through an interlibrary loan system. If you’ve ever used it, you know it makes life much easier. However, being part of this system requires the librarians be ready to quickly sort, classify and distribute a large variety of books throughout the week. “We get two shipments in on Fridays. That is our very busy day,” said Wilcox.

Once the shipments arrive, they have to be sorted for the library patrons and quickly checked into the system. When new books arrive, Wilcox explains, they too have to be classified. They also need the pockets put on and an old fashioned typewriter to input the information for book classification. The book is placed on the shelf after that and is ready to be circulated. For every shipment, Wilcox showed me, there’s a spreadsheet to track how many books are passing through the library each month.

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