August 29, 2006 > Circulation: check it out
Circulation: check it out
by Sallie Pine, Reference Services Manager, Fremont Main Library
Your local library offers lots of services like: programming for adults, teens and children; help with finding information in the library and beyond; special equipment for those with disabilities; literacy classes; access to online subscriptions for magazines; databases; testing services; and much more. Even so, most people still use the library for its traditional purpose, to check out, read or use, then return available material. A community with a public library provides itself with a collection of shared resources for a very modest cost per person. Books remain the most popular, but today's libraries also provide magazines, DVDs, CDs, books on tape, and other formats. The cycle of check-out, use, and return is known in the library world as "circulation," because it's somewhat like the circulation of blood in your body. Circulation is indeed the lifeblood of the libraries, the reason many people use and value their local institutions.
Fremont Main Library is busy. Over the last fiscal year (July 2005-June 2006), it circulated some 1,489,640 items which meant a monthly average of 124,137 items; or, 628 items processed per hour. Every day, staff also unpacked, sorted and re-shelved items in 20-25 incoming mail bins from other branches; emptied 20-25 carts worth of returned items; and pulled about 220 requests from other branches. Counting visitors instead of material, Fremont Main Library saw an annual gate count of 669,506, or a monthly average of 55,792. It's fairly normal for us to see about 2500 people come into the library on a weekday, 3000 or so on Saturdays. During the recent heat wave, we had over 3800 people on one day!
Holds and how they work
One popular service is what we call "holds." Patrons may request items not currently available with a hold. There are normally waiting lists for new books, CDs and DVDs. Placing a hold frees patrons from repeated trips to their local branch in hopes of catching an item before someone else.
Holds are recorded and processed by computer on a first-come, first-served basis. When you reach first place on the list, branch staff pulls the item requested and notifies you either by email, regular mail or phone. We also have procedures for holds placed in any branch.
Once notified, you have 10 days to pick-up the item or to cancel your hold. A fee of $1 is charged for holds not picked-up or cancelled by that time. You can manage your holds from our website, http://aclibrary.org. Just use your library card number in the "My Account" section. Follow the instructions and applicable links.
Library business online
You can do a lot more too on our website. In addition to managing your own account, you may also pay fines with a MasterCard or Visa. (We expect to have in-branch credit card capabilities soon.) The website provides access to our calendar of events and contains a wealth of information about different services we offer, from literacy to the bookmobile, community languages, jail services and more. Have a look at the links under Research Guide to send us questions by e-mail and see recommended sites on the web by topic, including health, legal information, business, college rankings, and much more. Our virtual branch is always open!
Database of the month: Student Resource Center
School is starting. The Student Resource Center on our website is a wonderful collection of articles, book contents, images and sound files for nearly every subject. Its primary audience is grades 7-12, but it can also be used by adults and most 5th and 6th graders.
It's very simple to use. Just go to http://aclibrary.org, click on "Research/Articles and Databases," then "Students and Teachers." Scroll down the alphabetical list to "Student Resource Center." From there you simply type key words in the search box. There's also a list of popular assignment topics on the front page, so if yours is on that list, you can just click on it. The results of a search come up in tabbed format, with similar types of resources grouped together. For example, the results of a search for "global warming" will produce 14 items under the "reference" tab (articles from reference books like the Gale Encyclopedia of Science and Historic World Events), 1357 magazine articles, 776 articles from academic journals, 653 news items and 2 images under the multimedia tab.
When I clicked on the link for the John Steinbeck novel, Of Mice and Men, I got 17 reference sources, including a plot summary, critical evaluation, and essays about Steinbeck. There were also 188 magazine articles and other material. Each tab's items come up sorted by the number of times the searched word shows up in each article, but you can also re-sort them by date, title or type of document. If you like, you can limit your search at the beginning to specific content, such as academic journals, statistics or primary sources.
I highly recommend the Toolbox. Its link is a tiny little wrench icon underneath the dark blue banner: Click on it to get to information on how to make outlines, concept webs, charts and graphs; how to organize a report; build arguments; write a thesis statement; write a conclusion; and how to write citations and footnotes. This database has nearly everything a high school student would need to write a paper on nearly anything, from articles and reference books to tips on citing the sources.
You'll need a library card to access Student Resource Center. If you'd like to get one for this resource center, or any of the 30-plus subscription databases provided by Alameda County Library, go to http://aclibrary.org and click on "Get a Library Card." Print an application, fill it out and bring it in to any Alameda County Library with identification showing your name and address. We'll give you a card right away. With it, our databases are available to you 24/7 from home, work or school.