Speed and reliability is important when providing a customer focused service that helps deliver real value. Yesterday I was ordering new young adult fiction for the library.  Some of the books had not yet being released, but as a library we are happy to have these orders in the catalogue so that:

  • students don’t have to waste time recommending titles if they can see they are already on order,
  • students can start to place holds on books even before they come into the library. This helps the library be super responsive to their needs, and if this helps engage with students, and encourages literacy and reading, well then – bring it on.

Down the track there is the possibility we can monitor if there is a growing number of holds on any of the on-order books. We can then be even more responsive to patron needs and increase the number of copies ordered even before the first copy has arrived. While this sort of workflows is common in many public libraries it is practically unheard of in schools. In a cloud based collaborative environment however we DO need systems that automate and streamline much of this work and make it quicker and easier for the library patrons AND the library staff.

This post documents how one library is using a collaborative cloud based catalogue to speed up the orders for pre-publication books and give our patrons a better service. The post also looks at how long it take for the record to be available for other libraries to use.

In a traditional Australian school library environment a library would wait until the book has been been published and is in the book stores, or a library vendor has come and shown them the title. Before this library moved to online ordering we got a lot of our titles from two standing order companies. While they offered a great selection of title, they took too long to arrive. When we had the two systems working side by side the standing order books arrived a good three months after the books we ordered online. Student feedback suggested one of the reasons we had low loans for the Senior School collections was because it took too long for new material to reach the library.

A key focus of our library re-engineering has being implementing smarter, quicker, and more cost effective ways to get the right books into the library; and therefore provide a better library service that delivers better literacy and reading outcomes for students.

Each month we go online to ALS who are our main print book supplier. We can quickly search on new books being published and see which ones are popular by the number of orders, or pre-orders in the case of yet to be published tiles. Following is a screen shot from ALS followed by the same book o the publishers web site.



From within the ALS platform we place the order and this generates an order confirmation email within 60 seconds. Within a few minutes we also get a separate email with simple on order MARC records attached. Before moving to a cloud based catalogue system we would load these simple on order MARC records into the system so the catalogue showed titles that were on order. Now we are in the cloud we only refer to these MARC records if there is not an existing WorldCat record. So by moving into a cloud based collaborative environment we have already streamlined and reduced a whole lot of record capture and uploading.

In this example there was no record in WorldCat for the Penguin Australia edition of Girl Online but there was a very simple vendor record for the American edition of the same work but with a different imprint. We therefore:

  • derived a new WorldCat record from the American record,
  • quickly changed the publisher details so the Australian record showed the Penguin Australia details,
  • quickly added a whole lot of 650 topical and 655 genre headings. This book is the third in the series so many of the 650s and 655s were the same.
  • Added a 490 series field because the American record did not include any series information,
  • Added an 856 link to the book on the publisher’s web site.


We then added the record to our collection via the WorldShare Acquisitions module. The book will come in shelf-ready: covered with a genre label, call number, and a Library bar code. All that is left of the accessioning process is to wand in the item on receipt, and this is something the year 9 student volunteers can do. One of the privileges of being a student volunteer is first right to borrow an item (after all on-order holds have been satisfied).

Unless we have to create a record from scratch (which is very rare), the time taken to purchase an range of items on ALS, derive a new catalogue in WorldCat if one does not exist, process the order in WorldShare, and have the books available in the catalogue for students to place a holds, is less than the time it took to write this blog post.

When ordering from ALS we can see the book’s genre, so as the book is being ordered we can add the book to one of the existing book lists. For example:

We email our English teachers when we order new fiction for the library. If they have posted this link into their class page the new books will appear without the need for the teacher to update the URL.

So how long did it take for other libraries to access this new record?

For WorldCat libraries the new record was available the second it was saved. Likewise libraries using Libraries Australia have immediate access to the record as long as they search on WorldCat from within Libraries Australia. For this library, gone are the days of uploading records and manually syncing our holdings with Libraries Australia, this now happens in real time. Following is the screen shot of the record in the Libraries Australia result list, as well as the full record display. Note the book art appears in Libraries Australia even though it is yet to populate into WorldCat.



To finish, there are lots of ways we can work smarter and more efficiently. A lot of this is dependent on good old collaboration and cooperation, something libraries have done well for many years. The other essential ingredient is working WITH vendors and working WITH library standards and best practice. The later is something more libraries could do a whole lot better.