She’d love to be able to donate books

This week our columnist Claudette Sandecki tells the tale of why books donated to the local library have a hard time getting on the shelf

Over recent months have you donated a new book – or two – to the Terrace Public Library?

Have you waited forever to see your donated book show up on a shelf or listed in  New Books online? I have. And  as I learned last Saturday I’m not the only one waiting.

Soon after January 21, 2011, when I bought two copies of   The Misadventures of Russell Quigley, Photographer’s Mate, United States Navy written by David Griffiths, I donated one copy to the Terrace Public Library. I bought the book after seeing a glowing recommendation in a magazine and reading a hilarious page or two from the book on Amazon. The book was praised for being humourous and throwing light on the day-to-day life of a US Navy photographer.

The back cover offers four thumbs up from a retired USAF SMSgt, a Retired USN PHCM, a USN ABFCS(AW), and a USN PHC (AW). I’ll admit I didn’t check out those rankings, but trusted  their judgment.

Because I  so enjoyed the sample pages I read, I bought two copies – one to keep, the other for the library in case retired naval personnel living in Terrace might also find the book reminiscent of their marine experiences.

Realizing the library is short staffed, I patiently waited, routinely combing the latest online list of new books hoping to find my title among them. But so far, nothing.

So what did the library do with it? Did they pile it on the heap put out at a book sale?

Did the library board  reject it for some obscure reason and ban it from their shelves yet  not even offer me an explanation or give it back to me?

Saturday I learned why at least some donated books wait in limbo for months.

Before any book can be listed in the local library’s catalogue, and then put out on a shelf, it must be assigned a MARC Record.

A MARC Record is a comprehensive ‘pedigree’  assigned to each title written in code that all library computers can read. Only the largest libraries employ the specialized staff and computer program to create MARC Records. To see a MARC Record, go to Terrace Public Library’s website, click on New Books. Click on any title. Midway down the screen  blue highlights Copy Summary. Six columns to the right is MARC Record, a list of abbreviations maybe 30 lines long.

The MARC Record gives details about the book — author’s last and first name, title, publisher, date of publication, number of pages in the book, Dewey decimal file number, and about 20 other details. This guarantees that the book is uniformly filed in libraries and can be accurately accessed by other libraries.

When a small library such as ours receives a new book that no large library has as yet assigned a MARC Record, the library sets the book aside hoping one day soon a large library will be moved to produce a MARC Record and the book can then be set out for patrons to choose.

But suppose the book donated was written by a local, perhaps self published, and has escaped media attention beyond the local newspaper? How is a major library to learn of the book’s existence and be moved to create a MARC Record? In the case of my navy book, the library is waiting for Victoria or Vancouver to be offered a copy to codify. If no MARC Record materializes in periodic searches,  the local library in a pinch can do their best to create a MARC Record, but it wouldn’t be as comprehensive.

Perturbed with the almost two year wait for my donated book to be available to readers I’ve  actually thought, “That’s the last book I’ll ever donate to the public library. What’s the point?”

Learning why my book is still languishing in a box waiting for a miracle to spring it has reinforced my thought.