Library staff success in getting books to readers

3 May 2007


bookstack_team_leadersA team that works unseen in the country’s largest university library is achieving significant success in finding missing books.


With over eight million books to look after, staff at the Bodleian Library in Oxford work hard to find and fetch books that are requested by readers. Six million of the books are stored in book stacks, most them underground. Thirty-six staff members, organized in five teams (the team leaders are in the picture, left), have the task of finding books for readers (some of which have been requested online from home), getting them to the reading rooms as quickly as they can, and then replacing them when readers have finished with them. Some of the books are sent on a conveyor along tunnels under Oxford’s streets.


Inevitably some items go missing or are replaced on the wrong shelf so that readers are disappointed. To avoid this, the book stack staff have set themselves the task of finding as many missing books as they can. So far this year they have found 354 books that were previously lost and unavailable to readers.


The new impetus for finding lost books began last year when one staff member started tidying shelves during quiet moments. Seeing that she had found so many missing books this way, her colleagues in other parts of the book stack were inspired to start their own shelf-tidying projects, and that is how so many missing books came to light.   


One reader who had requested a book that seemed to be missing was delighted to be copied in to email correspondence between library staff as they traced the book; he was able to see the work involved and contributed his own ideas. When his book was finally found he said, ‘The service was excellent. I have never experienced anything like this before.’


Boyd Rodger (the Library’s Bookstorage Logistics Manager, second from left in photo) says, ‘This simple creative initiative has improved our service to readers. It is a good example of how a self-motivated project can inspire others to do something different and collaborate across departments, even in busy times, to achieve an excellent service for our readers. I commend the Bookstack Teams and all who have supported them in this work.  Well done!’





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