Detailed Table of Contents




How to Use This Handbook


Table of Contents


Montana Library Scene

Library Director, Trustee, and Local Government

Policies vs. Procedures

Public Service

Collection Development

Technical Services

Public Relations

Friends and Volunteers



Planning for the Future

Technology in the Library

Montana State Library

Table of Contents

How to Use This Manual

Flip backward or forward through the handbook. Located at the top of the left menu and at the bottom of each page.

Detailed (secondary) information for those who want to know more.

Presented in smaller text.

The Related Links/Detailed Definitions section includes links to items pertinent to the current page topic.


The profession of librarianship has a language all its own. Below is a list of selected library terms and acronyms used by Montana public libraries.

AACRII (Anglo-American Cataloging Rules)

Second edition of AACR was published in 1998. It establishes the standard set of rules for cataloging procedures and decisions used by most libraries in English speaking countries.


Brief description of a document, prepared by an author or professional abstracter, which identifies its major points.

academic library

Library established and maintained by a junior college, tribal college, community college, four year college, or university organized and administered to meet the information needs of its students, faculty, staff and others by agreement.


Availability of a library and its services to the population it is intended to serve. In a larger sense, access is the ability to obtain information through a library and its cooperative links to additional resources.

accredited library school

School that teaches library and information science at the master’s degree level and that has qualified for accreditation under requirements of the American Library Association.


Process of acquiring the library materials which comprise the library’s collection.

ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act)

National legislation giving civil rights protection to individuals with disabilities; it impacts libraries as service providers and as employers.

affirmative action

Policy of promoting equal employment opportunity through methods of recruitment, training, and promotion.

ALA (American Library Association)

Founded in 1876, ALA is the national association serving the interests of libraries.

ALTAFF (Association of Library Trustees and Advocates)

Association of public library trustees, Friends, foundations and advocates affiliated with the American Library Association.


All aspects involved in using a computer system for such tasks as circulation, cataloging, acquisitions, interlibrary loans, etc.

BCR (Bibliographic Center for Research)

Headquartered in Denver, BCR is a broker for bibliographic services, databases and training required by its member libraries.

bibliographic database

Computerized listing of books, periodicals or other library materials from which information can be extracted by a number of identifiers related to the bibliographic description of the item.

bibliographic records

Cataloging information used to describe and access an item such as a book, magazine, video or sound recording, map, etc.

bibliographic utility

Computer based network offering support functions to libraries, particu­larly in cataloging/technical services. See also OCLC.


Complete or selected list of documents related by author, subject, publisher, etc.

BIP (Books in Print)

Listing of currently available titles used for ordering books. BIP is available in a multivolume print set, on CD-ROM or online by subscription.

branch library

Auxiliary unit of a public library which has separate quarters, a permanent collection, permanent staff, and scheduled public hours. Branches are administered by a central unit.

call numbers

Classification number on an item of library material used to mark the item, shelve it properly, list it in the card catalog or computer, and find it for a user. Dewey Decimal and Library of Congress are two classification systems used for call number development.

Carnegie Library

Library building built fully or in part with funds contributed by Andrew Carnegie and characterized by a common architectural style.


File of bibliographic records created according to specific uniform principles of construction, which describes the materials in a collection, a library or a group of libraries. It may be in the form of a card catalog, a book catalog or an online catalog.


Process of physically describing library materials, including assigning subject headings and a call number, so that the items can be located in the catalog or on the shelf.


Online copy cataloging software from OCLC used by Montana libraries to obtain records for local automation systems and add local holdings to the WorldCat database using the web.

CD (compact disc)

High capacity storage device that uses laser technology to read data in digital form. Available in a variety of formats: CD-ROM: Read Only Memory CD-R: Recordable (onetime only recordable) CD-RW: Read/ Write (re-recordable)

CE (continuing education)

Opportunities provided for personnel to improve and grow in their professions.


See Montana Library Certification Program.


Activity of a library in lending materials to borrowers and the recording of these transactions.

city library

Free public library for city residents which is established, maintained and supported through taxation by a city, town or other municipality and whose board of trustees is appointed by the mayor. Refer MCA 22-1-301.

city-county library

Library established by a contract between a city and a county govern­ment to provide library services for a specific population in a defined area. Refer MCA 22-1-316.

classification system

System for arranging books and other materials according to subject or form. The two most common systems in use are Dewey Decimal and Library of Congress classification systems.


Total accumulation of all library materials provided by a library for its patrons. Collection is also used to describe a group of library materials having a common characteristic (e.g., Children’s Collection, Reference Collection, Local History Collection, etc.).

collection management

Planned process of selecting and acquiring library materials to meet the needs of the library’s community. It includes assessing user needs, adopting a collection management policy, studying collection use, selecting materials, maintaining the collection and weeding. Cooperative collection management refers to a group of libraries working together to identify collection strengths and minimize duplications.


In intellectual freedom cases, an oral charge against the presence and appropriateness of material in the library collection. Complainants are usually requested to complete and file a written form. Also referred to as a challenge.

cooperative system

Group of libraries banded together by formal or informal agreement which states common services to be provided, such as cooperative book buying, shared cataloging and cooperative reference service. This can also be a consortium of libraries joining together for all participants to benefit from a statewide license or statewide database subscription. See also magazine database, full text; MLN.


Exclusive privileges of publishing and selling a work granted by a government to an author, composer, artist, publisher, etc. Copyright is a right of intellectual property whereby authors obtain, for a limited time, certain exclusive rights to their works. Libraries have a special interest in fair use of copyrighted material.

county library

Free public library for the use of the whole county, which is established, maintained and supported through taxation by a county, and whose Board of trustees is appointed by the county commissioners. Refer MCA 22-1-303.


Systematic organization of information stored in a computer file for ease of searching, update and retrieval.

depository library

A library that is legally designated to receive free copies of all or selected government publications and make these documents available to the public.

Depreciation Reserve Fund

See Library Depreciation Reserve Fund.

Dewey Decimal Classification

Subject classification system for books developed by Melvil Dewey (1851-1931) that divides all knowledge into ten classes arranged in numeric sequence and further divided by a decimal system. Dewey classification is used in most public libraries.


See magazine database, full text.

Electric Library

See magazine database, full text.

E-mail (electronic mail)

Sending messages from one location to another through a communications network from one computer to another; generally referring to Internet mail.

end user

Library user who requests and uses information obtained from an online search.


Federal program providing discounts to eligible schools and libraries for access to telecommunications and information services, including basic local and long distance phone services, Internet access services, and acquisition and installation of network equipment. The Universal Service Administrative Company’s Schools and Libraries Division administers the E-rate program for libraries.

expenditures per capita

Measurement comparing the expenditures of the library to the size of the service area population.

fair use

Special conditions (such as criticism, news, teaching, or research) under which all or portions of copyrighted work may be reproduced without infringing upon the copyright laws.


Geographical grouping of libraries of all types working together to provide a broader range of resources and services than each individual library can offer alone. Montana is divided into six federations; each has an advisory board, headquarters library and federation coordinator.


Library foundations are separate, nonprofit groups that operate independently from the library to help with fundraising for the benefit and improvement of the library.

freedom to read

Guaranteed freedom in the U.S. Constitution. A Freedom to Read Statement was adopted in 1953 (revised in 1972, 1991 and 2000) by the American Library Association and the American Book Publishers Council describing the need for publishers and librarians to make available the widest diversity of views and expressions, including those that are unorthodox or unpopular. Many Montana libraries have adopted the Freedom to Read Statement.

Friends of the Library

Group of volunteers organized to support a particular library through lobbying, public relations, fundraising and program assistance.

FTE (full time equivalent)

A measure used by human resources personnel to indicate the number of full time workers who would be employed if all part-time positions were added together. The FTE calculation is used for budgeting and reporting purposes.

FY (fiscal year)

Used in budgeting to identify the twelve month accounting period under which an organization operates.


Bolts, nuts, board, chips, wires, transformers, circuits, etc. in a computer; the physical components of a computer system.


All the cataloged and uncataloged materials in the possession of the library.

holdings per capita

Measurement comparing the size of the library collection to the size of the service area population.

home page

Main page of an Internet web site.

ILL (interlibrary loan)

System of interlibrary cooperation, which allows libraries to obtain information and materials for their users from other cooperating libraries. See also resource sharing.

IMLS (Institute of Museum and Library Services)

Independent federal agency that provides programs of support for both libraries and museums and encourages library museum partnerships. The agency administers the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant program to states.

income per capita

Measurement comparing the income of the library to the size of the service area population.

institutional library

Library within a correctional facility, rehabilitation center, care facility or other institution that serves the library needs of residents and staff.

intellectual freedom

Right of individuals to the free and open exchange of information and ideas. This right is supported by the American Library Association, the Montana State Library Commission and individual libraries through commitment to the Library Bill of Rights and the Freedom to Read Statement. Public libraries safeguard intellectual freedom by providing a collection representing all viewpoints and equal service to all members of the community.


International system of computer networks through which libraries and individuals may communicate and share information via E-mail, databases, and other methods. See also web.

ISBN (International Standard Book Number)

Unique identification number printed in books by international agreement.

ISSN (International Standard Serial Number)

Unique identification number for each serial publication.


Wholesale book supplier who supplies many titles from different publishers and sells them to libraries and retailers.


Word used in an information retrieval search to find a particular word in an author, title, abstract or subject field. This is especially useful when the word is not used as a recognized subject term within the index being searched.

LAN (local area network)

Network that connects nearby computers, usually in the same building, using cables or wireless technology.

LC (Library of Congress)

National library of the United States that serves the U.S. Congress and provides services to all types of libraries.

Library Bill of Rights

Policy statement adopted in 1948 (and reaffirmed in 1961, 1980 and 1996) by the American Library Association concerning service to all people, free expression of ideas and censorship. Many Montana libraries have also adopted this policy statement.

Library Depreciation Reserve Fund

Fund in which a library can hold money in reserve beyond the year it is allocated to be used at a later time for replacement and acquisition of property, capital improvements and equipment necessary to maintain or improve library services. Refer MCA 22-1-305.

Library of Congress Classification

Subject classification system for books devised by the Library of Congress that divides knowledge into 21 subject areas and has a notation of letters and figures that allows for expansion. It is used mostly in academic and special libraries.

long range plan

Document adopted by a library’s governing Board outlining the goals, objectives and action plans for the library’s operation and development over a designated time period, usually three to five years.

LSTA (Library Services and Technology Act)

Enacted in 1997, LSTA replaced LSCA. The new act is administered under the Institute of Museum and Library Services with the primary focus on improving library services through technology, encouraging sharing of resources and targeting library and information services to underserved populations. LSTA grants are awarded annually to all state libraries for use in statewide and local projects. In Montana, the Montana State Library Commission establishes priorities for LSTA funds.

magazine database, full text

Online periodical index that allows searching of subject specific magazine article citations. The database may also provide the complete text of the article located. Such databases allow library patrons to access full text versions of thousands of magazine and journal articles. Examples of full text magazine databases include EbscoHost, Electric Library, InfoTrac and SIRS Researcher. See also cooperative system.

MARC (machine readable cataloging)

Standardized arrangement of bibliographic information for computer based catalog records to permit sharing with other automated systems.

METNET (Montana Educational Telecommunications Network)

Interactive video system that consists of a number of locations having two-way interactive compressed digital video facilities. METNET is available for use by state agencies, higher education, K-12 schools and approved nonprofit corporations where usage qualifies under state statute.


Generic term for any medium that contains miniaturized records such as microfilm or microfiche. Microforms require special readers to enlarge the images so the information can be read.

mill levy

Number of mills (one mill equals one-tenth of a cent) that is multiplied by the value amount (assessed or adjusted) of property to determine the amount of tax to be paid by the property owner.

mission statement

Concise expression of the library’s purpose and service priorities.

MLA (Montana Library Association)

State association with a membership composed of librarians from all types of libraries, trustees, friends and students. MLA’s concerns are the welfare and professional development of its members, the advocacy of library needs and the assurance of open access to information for all Montana’s citizens.

MLS (Master of Library Science)

Graduate degree from a library school or department.

Montana Library Certification Program

Program adopted by the Montana State Library Commis­sion to encourage library directors, staff members and trustees to maintain, acquire and develop their skills and knowledge through basic and continuing education.

Montana State Library Commission

Governing body for Montana State Library composed of seven members. The governor appoints five members and two members are designees from the Office of Public Instruction and the Commissioner of Higher Education. Refer MCA 22-1-101.

MPLA (Mountain Plains Library Association)

Eleven state association, including Montana, which seeks to improve present and future library services throughout the region.

multijurisdictional library

Library operated jointly by two or more units of local government under an interlocal agreement that creates a jointly appointed board or similar means of joint governance. Distinguished from a library that contracts to serve other jurisdictions. Refer MCA 7-11-1101.

multitype library system

Cooperative system in which two or more types of libraries--academic, public, school, special, institutional-- participate.

municipal library

See city library.

National Library Service (NLS) for the Blind and Physically Handicapped

Division of the Library of Congress, NLS offers free recorded and Braille embossed books and magazines to individuals with visual and other physical conditions limiting use of regular printed materials. Montana State Library’s Talking Book Library serves as a regional library for Montana.


Structured arrangement for connecting devices such as computer terminals or libraries for the purpose of communications, information exchange or cooperative services. A network can be local, regional, national or international.

NRIS (Natural Resource Information System)

Division of Montana State Library, NRIS was established in 1985 to identify and acquire Montana’s natural resource information and to provide a clearinghouse for this information.


Measurable result to be achieved in a specific time period, used in library planning; for example, to increase the circulation of large print books by 25 percent during the next year.

OCLC (Online Computer Library Center)

Nonprofit library service and research organization located in Dublin, Ohio, used by libraries to catalog library materials, arrange interlibrary loans and maintain location information on library materials. In Montana, many libraries of all types use the OCLC bibliographic database for cataloging, interlibrary loan and reference. See also WorldCat.

online search

Literature search of databases through a computer, usually performed by an online searcher as part of a reference service.

OPAC (Online Public Access Catalog)

Automated catalog providing patron access through computers. See also PAC.

output measures

Measurements that reflect the results or outcomes that measure a library’s performance. Examples of useful output measures for public libraries include title fill rate, subject fill rate, turnover rate, document delivery rate, in-library use, circulation, number of visitors, etc.

outreach programs

Programs provided by a library to people who are unable to use the library directly because of geographical, physical, mental or legal restrictions. Examples include service to nursing homes and institutions, bookmobile services, books by mail to the geographically remote and service to the homebound.

PAC (Public Access Catalog)

User friendly computer terminal that permits patron access to an automated library catalog. See also OPAC.

paraprofessional staff

Library employees without professional certification or entrance level educational requirements but who are assigned supportive responsibilities at a high level and who commonly perform their duties with some supervision by a professional staff member.

performance appraisal

Process of evaluating the performance and behavior of employees individually in their positions to assess training needs and determine eligibility for retention, salary adjustments and promotion.


Type of serial publication that is issued regularly, each issue of which is numbered and dated consecutively and contains separate stories, articles and other writings.

PLA (Public Library Association)

Division of the American Library Association.

PNLA (Pacific Norwest Library Association)

Seven member regional library association promoting regional library activities and cooperation among five states including Montana, and two Canadian provinces.


Written statement passed by formal motion of the board of trustees which gives general guidelines for making decisions in the administration of the library.


Process for preparing books and other materials for use by the public; may include cataloging, preparation of cards, attaching book pockets and protective covers, etc.

professional staff

Persons whose regular assignment requires either a college degree or experience of such kind and amount as to provide a comparable background.

public library

Any library that provides general library services to all persons in a given community, district, or region, and is supported mainly by local taxes. Refer MCA 22-1-301.

reference collection

Collection of books and other materials used for supplying authoritative information on identifying sources; kept together for convenience in providing information service and generally not allowed to circulate. Reference materials include abstracts, alma­nacs, bibliographies, dictionaries, directories, encyclopedias, indexes, statistical compendia, union catalogs, yearbooks, etc.

resource sharing

Cooperative arrangement among libraries to make available the resources of a library for use by the patrons of another library, usually through interlibrary loan or reciprocal borrowing. See also ILL.

retrospective conversion

Conversion of information from traditional card catalog cards to an electronic format. “Recon” is most often undertaken in preparing for installation of a local automated system or for a cooperative resource sharing project.

RFP (request for proposal)

Document issued to advertise for vendor proposals, equipment and software. Usually the RFP contains detailed specifications of the goods or services wanted.

school library

Library in an elementary, secondary or combined public school where a collection consisting of a full range of media, associated equipment and services from the school library staff are accessible to students, teachers and staff.

school/public library

Library serving as both a school media center and public library which is governed, funded and operated by one or more legally constituted administrative jurisdictions. School/public libraries are created by an interlocal agreement signed by two legal jurisdictions.


Process of choosing the books and other materials to be purchased by a library.


Any publication (periodicals, newspapers, annuals, journals, transactions of societies, numbered monographic series, etc.) issued in successive parts and bearing numerical or chronological descriptions.

service area population

Number of people in the geographical area for which a public library has been established to offer services and from which the library derives income, plus any areas served under contract.


Type of catalog or inventory of items as they appear on the library shelf, that is, by classification number.

special library

Library which serves a special purpose or clientele and is maintained by an association, government service, research institution, learned society, museum, business firm, industrial enterprise or other organized group. The greater part of a special library collection is limited to materials concerning a specified field or subject.

staff development

Sustained effort to improve the overall effectiveness of personnel in the performance of their duties. See also CE.

standards for libraries

Guidelines or criteria developed at state and national levels requiring certain minimal standards deemed essential for proper operations of libraries. Montana Public Library Standards are approved and enforced by the Montana State Library Commission.

talking book

Book that has been recorded on record or tape for use by visually and physically impaired individuals.

TBL (Talking Book Library)

Department of Montana State Library that provides free equipment and materials to Montana citizens who are visually or physically impaired. TBL is funded by LSTA funds. TBL materials are provided by the Library of Congress or are recorded by TBL volunteer readers.

technical services

All activities related to obtaining, organizing and processing library items, and maintaining them with repairs and renovation.

union catalog

Central catalog listing of library materials located in various libraries with individual library holdings indicated. The catalog may exist in a variety of formats.

web or www (World Wide Web)

One part of the Internet in which information is presented as text, graphics and multimedia. The user accesses and views a web page with a web browser such as Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator. The user can navigate around a web page and /or view additional information on other web pages by clicking on text or graphics known as hyperlinks.


Part of collection management that selects library materials to be discarded or transferred to storage, based on standards of use, currency, condition and community needs.


Electronic mail list used by Montana librarians to share information by posting E-mail messages that are automatically distributed to participating libraries statewide.


OCLC’s web-based database of over 44 million bibliographic records that subscribing libraries can use for cataloging, reference, and resource sharing.


Standards protocol, which gives library users easy access to another library’s automated system. The benefits of Z39.50 are that the interface is controlled by the user’s system. Familiar search strategies and cursor commands are available, and the computer, rather than the user, translates between local and remote machines.


AG - Attorney General

ALA - American Library Association

Founded in 1876, ALA is the national association serving the interests of libraries.

ARRA - American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

The act providing for stimulus monies.

BCR - Bibliographic Center for Research

Headquartered in Denver, BCR is a broker for bibliographic services, databases and training required by its member libraries.

BMSC - Base Map Service Center

Department of Administration's geographic and mapping services center.

BVF - Broad Valleys Federation

A geographical grouping of libraries of all types working together to provide a broader range of resources and services than each individual library can offer alone. Montana is divided into six federations; each has an advisory board and federation coordinator.

CD/DVDs - compact disc/digital video disc

High-capacity storage devices that uses laser technology to read data in digital form. Available in a variety of formats.

CD-ROM - Read Only Memory; CD-R - Recordable - one-time only recordable; CD-RW - Read/Write - re-recordable,DVD-RN, etc.

CE - continuing education

Opportunities provided for personnel to improve and grow in their professions.

CST - Coal Severance Tax monies

CTI - Career Training Institute

DPHHS - Department of Public Health and Human Services

EPP - Executive planning process

Used by the Governor's budget office in preparation of the biennium budgets.


Federal program providing discounts to eligible schools and libraries for access to telecommunications and information services,including basic local and long-distance phone services, Internet access services, and acquisition and installation of network equipment. The Universal Service Administrative Company's Schools and Libraries Division administers the E-Rate program for libraries.

FTE - full-time equivalent

A measure used by human resources personnel to indicate the number of full-time workers who would be employed if all part-time positions were added together. The FTE calculation is used for budgeting and reporting purposes.

FWP - Fish, Wildlife & Parks

FY - fiscal year

Used in budgeting to identify the twelve-month accounting period under which an organization operates.

GIO - Geographic Information Officer

GIS - Geographic Information Systems

GPL - Golden Plains Library Federation

See also BVF

HB2 or HB0002 - House Bill two

Which was/is the general appropriations act passed each biennium by the Montana Legislature containing the budget for all Montana state agencies including the Montana State Library.

HB0645 - House Bill six forty five

Which was the stimulus funding bill passed by the last Legislature.

ILL - interlibrary loan

System of interlibrary cooperation, which allows libraries to obtain information and materials for their users from other cooperating libraries. Also referred to as resource sharing.

IMLS - Institute of Museum and Library Services

Independent federal agency that provides programs of support for both libraries and museums and encourages library-museum partnerships. The agency administers the Library Services and Technology Act - LSTAgrant program to states.

LAN - local area network

Network that connects nearby computers, usually in the same building, using cables or wireless technology.

LBEP - Library Board Education Program

Library Services and Technology Act - LSTAfunding administered by Montana State Library, enabling basic trustee Board training by other public library trustees. Training is provided on request and trainers volunteer their services.

LC - Library of Congress

National library of the United States that serves the U.S. Congress and provides services to all types of libraries.

LDD - Library Development Division

Division of Montana State Library that provides consulting services and training to librarians in Montana to assist with the improvement of library services statewide.

LIS - Library Information Services

NLLD - National Library Legislative Day

Which is usually scheduled in May each year as an opportunity for Library advocates to meet with our Congressional delegation in Washington DC to share views on library funding and issues.

LSTA - Library Services and Technology Act

Administered under the Institute of Museum and Library Services with the primary focus on improving library services through technology, encouraging sharing of resources and targeting library and information services to under served populations. LSTA grants are awarded annually to all state libraries for use in statewide and local projects. In Montana, the Montana State Library Commission establishes priorities for LSTA funds.

LVM - Low Vision Montana

MAB - Montana Association for the Blind

MAB/SOP - Montana Association for the Blind's Summer Orientation Program

A training program for newly blind and low vision Montanans.

MARC - machine readable cataloging

Standardized arrangement of bibliographic information for computer-based catalog records to permit sharing with other automated systems.

MCA - Montana Codes Annotated

The laws of Montana.

MLA - Montana Library Association

State association with a membership composed of librarians from all types of libraries, trustees,friends and students. MLA's concerns are the welfare and professional development of its members, the advocacy of library needs and the assurance of open access to information for all Montana's citizens.

MLIAC - Montana Land Information Advisory Council

MLS - Master of Library Science

Graduate degree from a library school or department.

MOU - Memorandums of understanding

MPLA - Mountain Plains Library Association

Eleven-state association, including Montana,which seeks to improve present and future library services throughout the region.

MRRS - Montana Radio Reading Service

A service that provides audio or digital recordings of Montana newspapers to those who can not read traditional print.

MSC - Montana Shared Catalog

A shared online catalog and circulation system hosted by Montana State Library composed of member libraries of all types from across the state.

MSDI - Montana Spatial Data Infrastructure

MSDL - Montana State Digital Library

MSL - Montana State Library

MSLC - Montana State Library Commission

The Governing body for Montana State Library. The governor appoints five members and two members are designees from the Office of Public Instruction and the Commissioner of Higher Education. Refer MCA 22-1-101.

MTBL - Montana Talking Book Library

NAC - Network Advisory Council

A group of librarians which advises the Montana State Library in matters pertaining to library networks, resource sharing, library automation, online library resources, and training needs.

NHP - Montana Natural Heritage Program

NLS - National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped

Division of the Library of Congress, NLS offers free recorded and Braille-embossed books and magazines to individuals with visual and other physical conditions limiting use of regular printed materials. Montana State Library's Talking Book Library serves as a regional library for Montana.

NRIS - Natural Resource Information System

Division of Montana State Library, NRIS was established in 1985 to identify and acquire Montana's natural resource information and to provide a clearinghouse for this information.

OCLC - Online Computer Library Center

Nonprofit library service and research organization located in Dublin, Ohio, used by libraries to catalog library materials, arrange interlibrary loans and maintain location information on library materials. In Montana, many libraries of all types use the OCLC bibliographic database for cataloging, interlibrary loan and reference.

OPAC - Online Public Access Catalog

Automated catalog providing patron access through computers. See also PAC.

OPI - Office of Public Instruction

OTO - One time only

Is a phrase used when the legislature or Governor's budget office agrees to fund a program or service for one year or one biennium only. A new request would have to be filed to get funding beyond the one year.

PAC - Public Access Catalog

User-friendly computer terminal that permits patron access to an automated library catalog. See also OPAC.

PAC-HUG - Public Access Computer Hardware Upgrade Grants

Provided by the Gates Foundation.

PATH - Pathfinder Federation of Libraries

See also BVF

PEEL - Professional education and employment for Librarians

A multi year grant program to provide scholarship monies for Montanans to attend Masters of Library or Information Science schooling and to provide stipends for Montana libraries to help pay for professional librarians to work in their libraries.

PLA - Public Library Association

Division of the American Library Association.

PNLA - Pacific Northwest Library Association

Seven-member regional library association promoting regional library activities and cooperation among five states including Montana, and two Canadian provinces.

RFP - request for proposal

Document issued to advertise for vendor proposals, equipment and software. Usually the RFP contains detailed specifications of the goods or services wanted.

SAGE - Sagebrush Federation of Libraries

See also BVF

SOC - Libraries - South Central Federation of Libraries

See also BVF

SOC - Heritage - Species of Concern

SuDoc - Superintendent of Documents

Classification system for federal publications.

SWIM - South Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana

Joint professional education and employment for librarians scholarship program.

TAM - Tamarack Federation of Libraries

See also BVF

TBL - Talking Book Library

Department of Montana State Library that provides free equipment and materials to Montana citizens who are visually or physically impaired. TBL is funded by Library Services and Technology Act - LSTA and state general funds. TBL materials are provided by the Library of Congress or are recorded by TBL volunteer readers.

VA - Veteran's Administration

WIA - Work Force Investment Act



Annual Statistical Report


Baker & Taylor
board meetings


collection development policy
continuing education
customer service











job descriptions


Library Development Department (LDD)


Montana Certification Program Manual
Montana Shared Catalog




Public Library Standards



Summer Reading Program







Wanted: A Library Director


First, we need to acknowledge our state library colleagues whose generous sharing of their own handbooks helped in the process: Idaho, Louisiana, Indiana, Kentucky, Vermont, and Wisconsin. Specific sections were adapted from the following:

Handbook for Louisiana Public Library Directors

Idaho Librarian Survival Manual

Indiana Survival Guide

Vermont Public Library Almanac

Thanks to all of them for sharing and saving us from reinventing the wheel.

Wanted: A Library Director

Position Summary: The Librarian is responsible for the overall smooth operation of the library, including: the supervision of staff, the creation of a cordial and friendly atmosphere in the library, marketing the library, acting as an ambassador to the community, outreach, lobbying for the library, developing a library budget, collection development, records maintenance, personnel scheduling, and delegation of library tasks.

That was a typical job description for a library director, but what does it mean? This handbook is designed to give you a quick introduction to working in public libraries. It is not a how-to handbook. Instead you will find answers to what, why, and how is it related to Montana. We have also added additional resources throughout the handbook such as the resource listed below. You can check out the resource right now or wait until later.

Montana State Library: Library Development

Your starting point for Public Library information and services.


Statewide Library Resources

Montana Library Scene

Montana Library Scene Overview

Montana Public Libraries

Montana State Library

Montana Library Association

Wired-MT and Focus


Continuing Education in Montana


Public Library Standards

Montana Shared Catalog

Montana Library Scene Overview

What's different in Montana? Actually we have a lot in common with our counterparts across the United States, but this chapter discusses some Montana-pertinent information. Figuring out who's who in Montana's library world is not easy.

Montana Public Libraries

Libraries in Montana are typically city or county libraries. City and county libraries depend upon local funding. Some city libraries have contracted with a county to provide library services to people in that county. In 2001 a library district law was passed that makes it possible for libraries to organize into districts. The law was updated in 2005. Currently Montana has three public library districts.

Montana State Library

An entire chapter will be devoted to the Montana State Library (MSL), so we'll just introduce ourselves here. Briefly, we provide support for government officials and agencies, patrons with vision problems, and public libraries. The State Library is also responsible for gathering and disseminating natural resources information. We'll talk about each department in the chapter dedicated to the Montana State Library.

Montana Library Association

The Montana Library Association (MLA) offers camaraderie, guidance, and support. MLA is a statewide professional organization dedicated to supporting libraries, trustees and library staff in Montana. The group lobbies for legislative change, provides continuing education, promotes library interests and development, and offers its members a chance to network with other library staff. Throughout the year MLA hosts retreats and an annual conference where members can meet and learn more about what is happening in libraries.

MLA is a membership organization which represents all types of libraries, public library trustees, and members of Friends organizations within its divisions and interest groups. MLA standing committees work on a variety of library-related issues including government affairs, intellectual freedom, marketing, and professional development.

Montana Library Association

Wired-MT and Focus

Wired-MT is a listserv for Montana library staff. A listserv is an electronic forum where people can post ideas or find out what is happening in the area. This listserv is a great resource for library staff, so we would recommend subscribing to it. Instructions on how to subscribe to wired-mt can be found at http://www.mtlib.org. Library staff can read messages posted on a variety of topics and they can post messages and/or questions for others to read.

Focus is the bi-monthly newsletter of MLA. It covers library information, upcoming events, and relevant library news. It is available here.


Montana is one of the few states that organizes its libraries into federations. Essentially these are regional support systems for libraries. Every year the State Library receives money from the legislature that is distributed to federations. There are six federations in Montana. When you are looking for support or help in your area, try the members of your federation. Many of these librarians have had similar experiences and might be able to help you connect with regional resources. Federations support library staff by providing continuing education opportunities, awarding monies, consulting and reference services, offering reciprocal borrowing privileges, and networking opportunities.

Federations are comprised of libraries of all types, but public libraries are central to their existence. Meetings to network, receive training, and decide on the appropriate way to use the money granted by the state are held each year. Typically federations meet at least once a year. Trustees and library directors are encouraged to attend. Each federation elects a coordinator who is responsible for answering questions and providing guidance for planning.

Federation members are responsible for developing a plan of service that describes how federation funds will be used for the year. Common activities include continuing education and money for cataloging and reference tools. Libraries must work together in order to survive; federations are one way of achieving this cooperation.

You can find contact information for your federation coordinator, links to the plans of service and meeting information here.

Montana Library Federations

Continuing Education in Montana

There are many opportunities for continuing education in Montana or out-of-state. Above we referred to the federations, which often provide continuing education for member libraries. How this is done varies with each federation, so contact your coordinator to find out what is happening in your area. This section is intended to give you an idea of what opportunities are available in Montana and roughly when they happen and whom to contact.

  • MLA Annual Conference occurs in April. The conference lasts three days and has several pre-conferences. Workshops cover a wide range of topics and tend to be shorter. Check out http://www.mtlib.org for more information.
  • OFFLINE is in February. It is a two-day retreat, sponsored by MLA. The focus is on technology in libraries. MLA's website is the best place to go for information about OFFLINE. The address is http://www.mtlib.org.
  • ASLD/PLD Retreat is in the fall. What are these? PLD is the Public Library Division of the Montana Library Association and ASLD is the Academic and Special Library Division. Just in case you are wondering, there is also a School Library Media Division. The PLD retreat offers workshops focusing on pertinent library topics. You can find out more about this retreat on the MLA website at: http://www.mtlib.org.
  • The MSL Fall Workshop occurs in September and is offered by the Montana State Library. Workshops can cover everything from grants to children's services; the classes tend to be longer than those at a MLA conference. For more information, contact the Montana State Library 1-800-338-5087.
  • Federation meetings are held in the spring and fall. Contact your Federation coordinator for more information.
  • Online classes are available in a variety of ways. The Montana State Library offers online classes developed by state library staff, online training with our training specialist, as well as Webjunction courses. To learn more about our online trainings please see our continuing education page:http://libraries.msl.mt.gov/learning.
  • Montana Library Event Calendar. This online resource is a statewide training/event calendar created to provide a focused source of information for library-related activities that can be used as a planning tool for librarians and trustees. The calendar is managed by Montana State Library with cooperating libraries. The website address is https://mslservices.mt.gov/ASPeN/Events/
  • Our Training Specialist will provide on site workshops on a variety of topics. We request that at least 4 people attend each training. Please contact our training specialist at 406-431-1081 for more information.

MSL Training and Certification

Montana Library Event Calendar


Since we just talked about continuing education opportunities, we'll take a quick look at certification in Montana. The State Library certifies public library directors. Public library directors must obtain 60 hours every 4 years. You need to obtain the following credits:

  • Library Administration - 20 credits
  • Library Services to the Public - 10 credits
  • Collection Management and Technical Services - 10 credits
  • Technology - 10 credits
  • The last 10 credits can be in any category.

Once you have the 60 credits you can contact the State Library to become certified. For required forms and more information about the program please see http://libraries.msl.mt.gov/library_development/certification .

Public Library Standards

Public libraries in Montana must meet certain essential standards in order to receive state aid per capita money. Don't worry, we'll talk about money later in the handbook. The essential, enhanced and excellent standards according to Administrative Rules of Montana 10.102.1150 through 10.102.1154 can be found at http://libraries.msl.mt.gov/library_development/standards.

Montana Public Library Standards

Montana Shared Catalog

The State Library is working toward a statewide shared catalog, where a patron at your library could find out what other libraries have available. Think of it as one stop shopping, where a patron can access every library in the state. The Montana Shared Catalog (MSC) is the name of a statewide catalog project originally funded by the State Library. More than 130 public, school, academic, and special libraries from all regions of Montana are members of the MSC . By working together these libraries seek to offer patrons the best library service possible. The State Library will continue to help other libraries join the MSC.

Question: What's the primary value of being an MSC library?

Answer: By working in partnership with other MSC libraries, you will have the opportunity to more efficiently provide higher value services and better quality content to your library's users.

Question: What is the Montana Shared Catalog?

Answer: The Montana Shared Catalog is a voluntary consortium comprised - as of Jan 1, 2011 - of 132 libraries and branches. MSC libraries are found in 80 Montana communities, serving a combined population of approximately 550,000 and over 350,000 registered users.
The MSC currently includes 5 academic libraries, 69 public libraries or public library branches, 46 school libraries, and 12 special library members from across Montana.

Question: Where are these libraries located?

Answer: Seventy-nine are in Western Montana (60%), 26 in Central Montana (20%), thirteen in Eastern Montana (10%), and fourteen (10%) on the Hi-Line.

Question: What application and computer hardware does the MSC run on?

Answer: We use SirsiDynix Corp.'s Symphony1 integrated library system (ILS). Library users access the catalog via the state-of-the-art Symphony "eLibrary" online public access catalog (OPAC). Library staff have a workstation-based client called "Workflows" that interacts with the Helena-based MSC servers. Director's Station is a web-based application that runs on its own server, allowing library directors and staff to query the system's history logs for statistical information on circulation, cataloging, acquisitions and user activity.

Montana Shared Catalog

Library Director, Trustee, and Local Government

Library Director, Trustee and Local Government Overview

Library Laws

New Library Staff

Library Board Overview

Responsibilities of the Library Board and the Director

Tips For Working With the Library Board

Getting Boards to Attend Meetings and Plan for the Library

Library Director, Trustee and Local Government Overview

Who does what may be a clearer title for this chapter. All three of you must work together in order to succeed. Often each of you will be working on one component of the same project. Developing a good relationship with trustees and local government is one of the most important things you will have to do. It is also the hardest. Read on for clarification of your roles and for tips on working with each other. Before we start talking about you, the trustee, and local government, lets look at some of the things you should do during the first few days and the first month on the job.

Note: The Montana State Library has also developed a Trustee Handbook that covers the duties of a library board. Your library should have a copy, but if not, contact Montana State Library or go to :Trustee Manual.

Library Laws

Before we discuss what you should do on the first few days of the job we need to share some information about law with you. Hopefully you won't need an in depth understanding of various legal issues in order to work with your board and local government officials. However a basic understanding of the legal system in Montana as well as knowledge of some critical laws will be helpful when working with others. Here is a brief summary of the various pieces of law that are the backbone of the legal system in Montana.

The Montana Constitution, Montana Laws, and Administrative Rules of Montana as they pertain to public libraries.

  • Constitution-a document that guides many of the decisions of lawmakers and others who work with the law
  • Laws-the Montana Code Annotated is the collection of laws that you must follow. Generally these are more general than the administrative rules. Think of this as what you must do to comply with the law. The Montana Code Annotated is created by the state legislature.
  • Administrative Rules-these rules identify how to comply with the law. Think of them as spelling out the details within the Montana Code Annotated. State agencies create administrative rules.
  • Montana Library Laws and RulesThis document lists laws and rules that are pertinent to libraries.

Please review the following laws, since they are important to know and understand.

Open Meeting Law - Montana has a strong open meeting law where the public is given the right to attend meetings and learn about what their government agencies and departments are doing to provide better service for Montanans.

Powers & Duties of the Library Board of Trustees - this spells out what duties and powers a library has. If you are a district library please see MCA 22-1-707 for information about what your board is legally able and expected to do.

Library Records Confidentiality Act - Montana protects its citizens by making library records private. What people read, what websites they visit, and even what library programs they attend are protected by this law.

These three laws are very important, but there are other laws that may impact you. Montana Library Laws and Rules will give you a better understanding of the other laws. We will also talk about the financial laws in other chapters of this handbook. If you have a question about library law please contact your state library consultant.

New Library Staff

Suggestions for the first few days on the job:

  • Get to know your staff and reassure them. Do you remember what it was like to have a new boss? Your staff feels much the same way as you might have. Try to remain neutral and avoid any negative comments about the way things were done in the past. It's also a good idea to not become involved in staff disputes.
  • Tour the building with staff and schedule time to work with them. It will give you a good feel for how things are done.
  • During this period, you should be spending time acquainting yourself with the staff, the community, and your library.
  • Listen! Ask questions and really listen to the answers. Until you develop a feel for the library and hopefully a good working relationship with your staff and board, you don't want to make any major changes.

Suggestions for the first month:

  • Read through the former director's files and correspondence. It will give you an idea of what has been going on in the past.
  • Review the long-range plan, financial operations and policies.
  • Read through board meeting minutes to get a historical perspective and to have an idea of how much information board members expect.
  • Contact local government personnel.
  • Create a calendar with important dates, such as contract dates, insurance expiration dates, dates of local significance and deadlines.

Library Board Overview

For more information about the library board, please see the Montana State Library's Trustee Handbook. Trustees for most Montana libraries are appointed by city or county government officials, usually a mayor or county commissioner. Typically trustees serve for five years with the possibility of a second five-year term. Although public library district trustees are initially appointed by the local governing body they are elected by the public after the first year of the district's existence. This next section briefly breaks down the duties of a library board.

Montana Trustee Handbook

Responsibilities of the Library Board and the Director

Policy Making

The Board

Determine the goals and objectives of the library,  as well as methods of evaluating progress towards them

Consider what policies are needed

Officially adopt policies

The Library Director

Provide assistance and direction to the board in setting goals and objectives and determining methods of evaluation

Recommend needed policies and advise board

Carry out policies and interpret them to staff and public

Administration of the Library

The Board

Employ director, adopt plans, policies and budget, which gives board indirect responsibility.

Keep in touch with library's progress via personal visits to the library, librarian's reports, and feedback from the public.

The Library Director

Has direct responsibility by administering the library within the framework of the board's plans, etc.

Report status, problems, etc. to the board either via board meetings or other methods.


The Board

Employ library director and confirm staff appointments

Develop personnel policies and make sure working conditions are acceptable.

Evaluate library director.

The Library Director

Employ and supervise staff.

Recommend needed improvements and/or new policies.

Suggest evaluation criteria and provide materials for board. Maintain records of personnel evaluations.


The Board

Scrutinize preliminary budget, make necessary changes, adopt official budget. Explore and consider ways of increasing library funding.

Authorize expenditures.

The Library Director

Prepare preliminary budget. Research and provide board with information relevant to the discussion.

Decide on use of money within budget, long range plan, etc.

Board Meetings

The Board

Attend and participate in all regular and special meetings.

Maintain "open meetings" as required by law.

Approve minutes.

The Library Director

Attend all regular and special meetings.

Give appropriate public notice.

Act as secretary to the board, prepare agenda and provide minutes.

Public Relations

The Board

Establish and participate in planned public relations program.

Serve as link between the library and the community.

Keep political fences mended.

The Library Director

Maintain an active program of public relations.

Interpret board policies to staff and public. Involve library in community activities.

Keep political fences mended.

Continuing Education

The Board

Read trustee materials and library related publications.

See that new trustees have orientation.

Attend Federation or trustee-related meetings.

Support continuing education for library staff.

The Library Director

Call significant materials to board's attention.

Organize new trustee orientation.

Inform trustees of important meeting dates.

Inform trustees of important continuing education opportunities and urge trustees to include travel money, etc. in budget.

Planning for the Library's Growth

The Board

Analyze the community and consider library's strengths and weaknesses.

Set goals and adopt short and long range plans for the library.

Set priorities and decide on course of action.

The Library Director

Suggest and provide materials for community analysis. Help analyze library's strengths and weaknesses.

Recommend plans and means for implementing.

Administer library in terms of plans adopted by board.

Tips For Working With the Library Board

Spend the first year building trust. Get to know your library board members. Ask them questions like: What do they think of the library? Where do they want the library to go?

Pick your issues carefully. Bring up major things, but don't bother the board with things that are only mildly irritating. Remember the board and library have a history. Respect that.

The keys to working with your board are respect, communication, and tact.

If a board member has an idea that is not feasible for the library, point out some of the practical difficulties. Keep your cool and treat the request with respect and tact. Let the board member know that you are not comfortable with acting on the idea without board approval and that you will add the item to the agenda.

If the board makes a decision you do not agree with, it is still our duty to carry through. The only exception to this is where the decision forces you to do something illegal or unethical. For all other cases, adhere to the board's decision and don't express a negative opinion about it to the staff or public. Document any problems that are created and bring them to the board. If the decision turns out to be a good one, compliment the board on it.

Getting Boards to Attend Meetings and Plan for the Library

Are you having problems with board members not attending the meeting? If the answer is yes, ask yourself these questions. Working on these issues may help you get better attendance.

Are meetings businesslike and productive? Follow Robert's Rules of Order

Are meetings under two hours?

Are the agenda items board level or trivial?

Is everyone encouraged to participate?

Does another board member contact the missing members and encourage them to attend next time?

How can you get board members to participate in library planning?

Be positive.

Get board members to buy into the process. If a board member is enthused about something, ask for that member to chair a committee or help in developing that plan or policy. Try to include community members, staff, etc. on the committee.

Get a wide range of ideas from the community.

Follow a schedule for board meetings. For example meet 2nd Tuesday of every month.

Get the board excited

Brainstorm ideas

Serve food

Policies vs. Procedures

Policies vs. Procedures Overview



Policies vs. Procedures Overview

Both policies and procedures can help library staff work more efficiently. The difference between the two may not always be obvious. Generally policies are more "philosophical," whereas procedures are practical. A policy deals with issues that may not always be black and white, like acceptable use of the library. Procedures typically are black and white, like opening and closing the library. In this chapter we will talk about each and which ones are important for your library.


By this time you have figured out that working in a library is not as simple as you might have thought. Have you ever had to ask a patron to leave for inappropriate behavior? Have you had a mother complain about a book in the children's section? You could choose to deal with these problems as they come up, and ask your staff to do the same. But then you have problems with consistency. People respond to situations differently. Your mood or what kind of day you have had can also affect the outcome. While it is difficult to respond in exactly the same way each time, a good policy will get you close to that. It gives you and your employees guidelines, as well as protection. In the event of a problem, you'll have more leverage if you have a good policy that clearly states what is inappropriate behavior or explains why you choose the items you do. Written policies are an excellent training tool for new employees, and the public responds to what they perceive as a clear statement of authority. When library staff can show customers a written policy about the problem, customers tend to respect the library's policy.

Hopefully you've been convinced of the importance of having written policies. Your library probably already has policies covering a wide range of topics. With luck, you may even have a policy manual. If you don't, we encourage you to develop one. Having all of your policies in one place is convenient. You always know where to look. Creating a manual can be as simple as gathering up your current policies and placing them in a notebook. However, you may find that your library doesn't have much in the way of policies. What types of policies do you need? Here is a suggested list. This is a minimum, but it is a good place to start.

  • Personnel Policy: Includes job descriptions for all library staff, evaluation criteria, job expectations, information about salaries, benefits, etc.
  • Collection Development Policy: Describes what kinds of materials will be selected, how will they be selected, how donations will be handled, how collection maintenance will be done, and how the library will respond to complaints about materials.
  • Operational Policies: covers library hours, loan periods, how to deal with overdues.
  • Acceptable Use Policies: who has the right to use the library without charge, what types of behavior are acceptable and what types are not? It may set special conditions for the use of library resources. A good example of this is an Internet Use Policy.
  • Special Policies: are specific to your library. If you have a genealogy collection, you may want to develop a policy for how it can be used, who can use it, etc.

Before developing policies see if your library already has some of these (or all of them). Check with library staff and trustees. If you don't have all of the policies, start slowly. Writing good policies takes time. Give yourself, library staff, and trustees plenty of time to discuss a policy. And be sure to ask for staff input. They will have to explain the policy to customers, so they can add real value to the process. If you'd like to see policies from other libraries, the State Library has examples to share with you.


Earlier we talked about procedures being practical rather than philosophical. Think of them as a way to keep your library running smoothly. They are very important for training new staff, so you should make sure you have the necessary procedures and that they are kept up to date. Procedures don't have to be fancy or long. They just need to tell the reader how to do that process. Your library probably already has some procedures, and hopefully even has a manual. Consider putting all of your procedures in one manual. This makes them easy to find. If your library doesn't have typical procedures written down, work with library staff to develop some. The person who does a particular job should be the one to write the procedure. Although procedures don't need to be approved by the library board, it can still take time to develop them. What procedures typically need to be included in a manual?

  • Opening and closing the library
  • Circulation: check-out, check-in, etc.
  • Interlibrary Loan
  • Ordering materials: how? who?
  • Receiving/processing new materials
  • Collecting statistics
  • Setting up board meetings
  • Special events, such as storytime
  • Other special procedures, such as reserving the meeting room
  • Emergency procedures: who to call in the event of an emergency, what to do
  • Budget preparation
  • Summer Reading Program
  • Annual report
  • Use of library meeting room

By now you should have observed that these procedures cover routine tasks. Tasks can be done daily, weekly, monthly or even annually. Some of these tasks may require special forms. Be sure to include a copy of the forms in the procedures manual.

A Policy List for Public Libraries

(Excerpted from the Montana State Library Trustee Handbook)

The following list of policies may be relevant to your needs. It is arranged in the form of an outline to show how policies relate to one another.

  1. Mission and Role Statement
  2. Board Bylaws
  3. Public Service Policies
    1. Eligibility for borrowing and services
      1. Resident and nonresident
      2. Programming and outreach
    2. Collection Management Policy
      1. Mission and goals with community description
      2. Responsibility for selection
      3. Selection criteria for each format
      4. Scope and priorities of collection
      5. Selection procedures and vendor relations
      6. Evaluation, weeding and maintenance
      7. Censorship, access and challenged materials procedure
      8. Intellectual Freedom Statement, Library Bill of Rights
      9. Gifts and donations
    3. Circulation Policy
      1. Loan period and renewal
      2. Confidentiality
      3. Reserved material
      4. Fines, damages
      5. Interlibrary loan
      6. Special collections
      7. Audiovisual equipment
      8. Fees
    4. Reference Policy
    5. Facilities Policy
      1. Hours of operation
      2. Americans with Disabilities Act compliance
      3. Security
      4. Meeting room use
      5. Exhibits and displays
      6. Copiers and other equipment use
    6. Community Relations Policy
      1. Cooperative borrowing agreements
      2. Relations with schools
      3. Volunteers
      4. Friends groups
    7. Patron Behavior Policy
      1. Unattended children
      2. Respect for staff, users and library property
    8. Internet Use Policy
  4. Management Policies
    1. General
      1. Responsibility and authority
      2. Budget, accounting and financial management
      3. Procurement, including gifts
    2. Personnel
      1. Responsibility and authority
      2. Job descriptions and classifications
      3. Salaries and benefits
      4. Hours, annual and sick leave, overtime, holidays
      5. Hiring, termination, resignations and nepotism
      6. Performance evaluation and promotion
      7. Continuing education/professional development
      8. Discipline and grievances
      9. Americans with Disabilities Act compliance
      10. Fair Labor Standards Act complianceSexual harassment
      11. Personnel records
    3. Facilities
      1. Responsibility and procedures for maintenance
      2. Acquisition and ownership
      3. Insurance and liability
      4. Emergency preparedness
      5. Americans with Disabilities Act compliance
      6. Use of equipment, vehicles, etc.

Public Service

Public Service Overview

Customer Service

Reader’s Advisory


Reference Interview


Interlibrary Loan



Visiting Senior Centers and/or Schools

Services to the Homebound


Children Services

Young Adult Services

Adult Services

Public Service Overview

Libraries are about service. Although we may do physical tasks, such as processing and shelving books, the most important duty is meeting the informational/recreational needs of our community. In this chapter, we will cover those things we do that help the public. This includes customer service, reference, reader's advisory, circulation, and interlibrary loan.

Customer Service

Libraries must excel at customer service. The library needs to feel welcoming both in its design and in staff attitude. People are often uncomfortable when coming into a library, because of its unfamiliar environment. There are ways to deal with this problem.

Make the library inviting by keeping spaces open. Put chairs and tables in highly visible spaces. Have signs that guide the user and put attractive decorations on the walls. All of these will help, but the most important thing is staff attitude.

Smile and greet the public in a friendly way. This will go a long way toward making the patron feel welcome, even if your library doesn't look as nice as you would like. Here are some tips for good customer service:

  • Always greet a patron. It doesn't have to be elaborate or funny. A simple hello will work.
  • Be aware of your body language. Patrons can tell by the way you stand, etc. whether or not you really do want them in the library.
  • If you are working on something else when a patron approaches, put it aside. This lets the patron know that you are willing to give them your full attention.
  • Wearing name tags helps, but they can be uncomfortable for some staff members.
  • Approach the patron if it looks like s/he has a question. Sometimes patrons are afraid to ask, but will respond if you ask them first.
  • Use open-ended questions. This encourages the patron to talk.
  • Don't point patrons in the direction of the item. Lead them over to the item.
  • If patrons are working on something complicated or have to wait in line, give them something to get started.
  • Follow the golden rule, treat people as you would like to be treated.
  • Excellent customer service is important in every aspect of the library.

Reader’s Advisory

We often forget that many people come to a public library to read a book, be it the latest bestseller or a non-fiction book. One of the most common questions you may hear is "can you recommend a good book?" Our first instinct may be to recommend whatever we've tried, and that isn't necessarily wrong. However, there are some other tools that will help. A couple of electronic tools are "What Do I Read Next?" and "Novelist." Both tools give reviews and suggestions for other authors to try. You will need to ask the patron what types of books s/he likes to read or whom their favorite author is before using these tools. There are also some books that can help with this too. You may already have these books in your collection. If not, ask other library staff and/or watch for professional reviews that suggest titles.


Reference is about meeting the information needs of a customer. It's easy to panic when a person asks you a question about something. Remember that the more reference work you do, the better you will become at it. Here are some suggestions that will hopefully make the process easier:

  • Don't forget the encyclopedia or almanac. Many ready reference questions can be answered in these two sources.
  • Try to look through the materials in your reference collection. By doing so, you will become familiar with what you have on a topic and where to go for answers.
  • Before beginning to look for an answer, think of several different places the information could be. Try the most likely source first. You can save yourself some time and grief by doing so.
  • If you can't find the answer, offer to try local resources. These can include other libraries, city government, etc.

Before we leave reference, we need to take a few moments to talk about the reference interview. When a customer asks you a question, they are rarely asking you the real question. It's easiest to explain this by example. A patron may walk in and ask for a cookbook. Your first inclination may be to direct them to the cookbook collection, but in reality what that person really wants is a history of cooking in the Rocky Mountain West. If you just lead the person to the cookbooks, the individual probably won't find what s/he is looking for.

  • So what should you do? The first step is to ask the patron questions. Here is a possible reference interview based on the above example.
  • Patron: I'd like a cookbook.
  • Librarian: We have a lot of cookbooks. Are you looking for something specific? I may be able to help you find it faster.
  • Patron: Well, yes, I'm looking for a historical reference.
  • Librarian: Historical? Do you mean an old Montana cookbook? Something else?
  • Patron: I'm looking for a history of cooking.
  • Librarian: A history of cooking in general? Or are you looking for something more specific?
  • Patron: I'm looking for a history of cooking in the West.
  • Librarian: By west, do you mean the entire west or a specific region?
  • Patron: The Rocky Mountain West.
  • Librarian: I want to make sure I've got this, so I'm going to repeat your question, as I understand it. You would like information about the history of cooking in the Rocky Mountain region?
  • Patron: Yes, that's correct.

Do you see how the librarian found out what the patron really wanted? S/he had to ask a series of questions to finally arrive at the real one. Instead of asking for what they really want, patrons will simplify the question. If you answer the first question, you probably aren't going to lead them to the information they really need. The reference interview takes practice, just like any part of working in a library. The more you do it, the better you will be at it.

Reference Interview

In brief:

  • Your patron's wants are your patron's needs.
  • Listen closely to find out what your patron wants and then make sure the patron has either found it or a way to get it.
  • Be nice to all patrons. Remember, honey catches more flies than vinegar.


  • What is the actual question? You will need to actively listen and show genuine interest and empathy to find this out;
  • How will your patron use the information? This can be a delicate point. While it is important to respect your patron's privacy, it is often necessary to know how your patron will be using the information. This will help you make sure that you are getting the information s/he is looking for.
  • How much material is needed? Resist the urge to drown your patrons in information. Maybe they do just want to know what time it is, not how to build a watch. On the other hand, make sure they get all the information they need, and that it is accurate.
  • What level of information is needed? Don't anticipate your patron's level of needs or sophistication. Let them tell you.
  • How quickly does your patron need the information? Some information becomes useless when it is late and sometimes late is sooner than you think.

Tricks of the trade

  • People usually come to the librarian after looking elsewhere and are often frustrated because they have not found what they are looking for.
  • Active listening means working hard to make sure you are hearing what the patron is saying to you. Everyone has trouble expressing what they mean. It may be necessary to ask a patron during the interview questions such as "What kind of information about are you looking for?" in an effort to discover what the individual needs really are. When the patron replies, "What I'm really looking for is...",you will know you have succeeded.
  • Never make anything up and never give an answer without confirming it in a reliable source.
  • Do not force your help on a patron who does not want it, but be approachable so that patrons will feel secure in asking for help.
  • Remember that everyone is a student.
  • Make sure you are answering your patron's question, not giviher/him your answer.
  • Close the interview on a positive note. If you cannot help the patron, find someone who can. Try to follow-up in some way, and make it possible for your patron to tell you if s/he needs additional help at a later time.
  • The reference interview is a subtle interaction. It can be harder to determine the actual question than to locate the accurate answer.

There is a lot to reference, but it is important to meet your public's informational and recreational needs. Remember the more you practice, the better you will become.


This is the place where patrons go to check out or renew items, pick up holds or pay fines. The same customer service rules apply to the circulation desk. When most people think of a library, this is the department they are seeing in their minds. Having an effective circulation department is mostly about providing excellent customer service, but it is also about quickly and efficiently handling the above routines. If your library is automated, a computer system can handle many of the routines more quickly than can be done by hand.

Interlibrary Loan

Interlibrary loan (ILL) is the process of sharing material between libraries. Much of interlibrary loan work occurs behind the scenes, but it usually starts at the reference or circulation desks. If a patron wants an item that your library doesn't have, interlibrary loan is one way of obtaining that item. It's not quite as simple as that, however. When a patron requests something, you should think carefully about whether or not you want to purchase that item. If it is something others might be interested in then you should buy it for your library. If it seems like a one time only item, then ILL may be the way to go.

The most important step in the process is a reference interview. You should talk to the patron to determine what is really needed and when it is needed. After working with the patron, make sure you gather the title of the item, author, and date published. For magazines, you will need the title of the magazine, the title of the article, author, date of the magazine, volume, and page numbers. Technology has made requesting an interlibrary loan much easier. You can search for the item while the patron waits and even see which libraries own that item. Generally in Montana there is no charge for interlibrary loan, but some non-Montana libraries do charge a fee. Your library could choose to pay this fee or you could pass the cost onto the patron. If it looks like an ILL request is going to generate a fee you should let the patron know that there might be a fee, and you should find out how much they are willing to pay for the ILL request.

After obtaining all of the information you need, verify that the information is correct and find out which library has the item. You do this by searching a bibliographic database such as WorldCat (http://worldcat.org), an online database.

Once you know who has the item, send a request to that library. This can be done via mail by using the appropriate form, by email, or by FirstSearch ILL (a product of OCLC, the company behind WorldCat). We won't go into a lot of detail about these products. If you would like more information about Interlibrary Loan, contact the Montana State Library at 1-800-338-5087. The staff can help you find the resources you need to learn more about interlibrary loan.


Outreach goes beyond library walls; it's about serving people who cannot or will not come to the library. Outreach is an important part of marketing and public relations. There are many different ways to do outreach, so in this chapter we're only going to talk about some of the most common. Each library may have a certain approach to these types of outreach, so this will be general.

For great ideas on how to do outreach, talk with library staff in your vicinity. Others who have gone through a similar program will help you find the best way to develop, arrange, and implement an outreach program. Keep in mind that none of these programs are free, so be sure to include figures for each in your budget. This is particularly true, if you are thinking of books by mail or bookmobiles.


Programs can be inside or outside of the library. They can be tied to library activities; such as the summer reading program or they can be something entirely different. Some libraries use programming as a way of reaching people who would not normally use the library. Do you have a strong ranching population in your area? Try hosting a program presented by the Department of Agriculture on a topic of interest to ranchers. Programs vary widely, so let your creativity flow. Successful programming doesn't have to be rocket science or expensive. Know your community and identify possible areas of interest. Do you have a lot of senior citizens? Information about social security and/or health issues would be valuable to them. Do you have lots of children? Try offering craft programs and games where they can have fun and learn something too. Understanding your community and its interests is the first step to succeeding in programming. Be aware of potential speakers/presenters within your community. Do you have a talented quilter in your town? Perhaps this individual would be willing to do a workshop. Use programming as a way to promote libraries and meet the needs of your community.

Book clubs are becoming popular once again. Your fellow librarians can help you start a book club. You can also find information on the Internet and/or take advantage of the programs offered through Humanities Montana. Libraries around Montana have developed book club kits that have multiple copies of a book, a series of questions, and other helpful tools. To see what kits are available please visit the Montana Book Club Central Wiki at: http://montanabookclubcentral.pbworks.com/.

Humanities Montana

Montana Book Club Central Wiki

Visiting Senior Centers and/or Schools

What do these two things have in common? Libraries can reach out to populations that find it difficult to get to the library. Children often have to depend upon parents to drive them to the library, and many senior citizens can no longer drive. By visiting senior centers and schools you can expand access to your library services.

Like programming, visiting other places is a great marketing tool. In addition to providing much needed library service, the librarian advertises the library. Some libraries visit senior centers and/or schools once a month. On a prearranged schedule, the librarian may bring books, read to either audience, and/or provide programming. Other libraries visit schools just before summer reading to advertise the program and make children aware of it. There are many opportunities to make a difference in the community by getting out of the library and into schools and local senior centers.

Services to the Homebound

For those who are permanently disabled and are unable to get to the library, there are a couple of common programs that libraries use to provide library services. One is Books by Mail; a program where the library sends requested books to the customers. Books by Mail does not have to be limited to the homebound. It works well in rural areas where ranchers, farmers, etc. would have to drive many miles to visit the local library. If your library catalog is available through the Internet, customers can search your collection and decide which items they want. If you do not have this feature, you can create a catalog for the customer or you can work with them to discuss what types of items s/he might want. You can then use this knowledge to send books from your library's collection.

Another program is usually limited to those who are permanently disabled. A library staff member will visit the homebound and discuss what types of items that person may wish to read. The staff member will then return to the library and pull these items off the shelf and deliver the items to the homebound customer. This is one of the more expensive programs, but the rewards are great.


Bookmobiles are initially expensive, but can be cost effective for areas where there is little access to library services. Usually the bookmobile has fixed stops at schools, churches, even restaurants where customers can visit the bookmobile for a selection of books. Because a library staff member is on the bookmobile, customers can also ask for information, make requests for the next trip, or simply visit with the staff member. Some bookmobiles even have computers on them, where people can use office applications or surf the Internet.

Children Services

Services include story time, puppet shows and the summer reading program. Once again analyzing your community and its needs is the best way to determine what type of programming you should offer. For example in a community where both parents work and children are latchkey kids, libraries have offered programs after school.

Young Adult Services

This can be the most difficult crowd to reach in public libraries, but young adults deserve excellent library service as much as anyone else. You should make some attempt to work with the young adults in your community, either through your own connections or through middle/high schoolteachers or library staff. Possible services include homework help, book talks, and poetry readings.

Adult Services

Libraries sometimes forget adults when planning programming, but there are many things you can do to serve this population. Programming can include book discussion groups, lecture series, and even an adult summer reading program. The same discussion about knowing your community applies here. With any type of outreach, you must know your community in order to be effective.

Collection Development

Collection Development Overview

Assessing the Collection

Collection Development Policy

Collection Management Honor Roll

Selecting Items for the Collection


Weeding or Deselection

Collection Development Overview

Quality collection development isn't easy. This chapter will take a look at what we mean by quality. But what is collection development? We are referring to assessing the library's collection, the collection development policy, selecting materials, and weeding the collection. In addition, we're going to talk briefly about acquisitions simply because it is closely related to collection development. We'll also discuss a few things that are unique to Montana, such as the Collection Management Honor Roll, the book challenge list, and the statewide licensing options.

Assessing the Collection

If you were to attend a class or read a book about assessing your collection, you would probably be overwhelmed and never attempt it. However, collection assessment doesn't have to be that difficult.

What is it?

Collection assessment is a fancy term for looking at your collection through the eyes of your patrons, finding out how old your collection is, and identifying problem areas. What do your customers see when they look at your collection? Is it old and dusty? Is it confusing? Are the shelves full? What about the quality of your materials? Do they see torn books with broken bindings? Do they see a new collection? Is it attractive? Does it make the customer want to browse through the library? Are there a lot of books about one subject, but none on another subject? These are all important questions to answer when assessing your collection.

Why do assessment?

Assessment can help you set goals. It will reveal areas where you need to order more books or where you may need to remove materials. It can also help you visually emphasize why you need more money for materials. If you can show your library board that the median age of your science collection is 1950, they may be willing to increase your materials budget to replace those items.

How do you assess the collection?

It's easiest to break your assessment into subject or classification areas. For example, you can assess the philosophy section, which is 150-159.9. Or if you have a very small philosophy section, you might wish to look at all of your 100s. Do a small area at a time, so you don't become overwhelmed. First visually scan the section. Ask yourself the questions listed above. If you look at the philosophy section, how many items do you have about philosophy? You don't have to count all of the items, just count one shelf then count the number of shelves. This will give you a good estimate. Compare the size of your philosophy collection with how often it's checked out. Do the numbers make sense? We'll use an exaggerated number, but what if your philosophy section accounts for 20% of your non-fiction collection, but is only responsible for 0.5% of your circulation. You may have too many philosophy materials, which means you might want to make a note to weed that section. What if you have two philosophy books and neither is about eastern philosophy? You may want to consider selecting more items for that section and including a couple of good, general eastern philosophy books.

To find out the median age of your collection, look at the publishing date of the item. If you are in a large section of books, take a sample. Instead of looking in every book, choose every "nth" book to write down the date. By "nth" we mean every fifth or tenth, etc. After you record the dates, count the total number of entries and find out which one is at the halfway point (that's the median). The median is a good way to determine the age of your collection. Your library automation system may be able to do this for you.

Once you've assessed a section, write down some goals if you need to. Do you need more materials in a certain subject area? Do you need to weed an area? Do you need to replace some older materials with newer ones?

Collection Development Policy

We mentioned policies earlier, but this one is so important we'll talk about it in more detail. The collection development policy helps you define your community and your collection development goals. It has several parts, which we will discuss briefly. Your library probably already has a collection development policy, if not this will help you create one. If your library does have a policy, hopefully, this will help clarify it. In addition, the State Library has produced a publication entitled Collection Management Policy Guidelines for Public, Academic, Institutional and Special Libraries. This publication can help when writing or updating your policy. You can find this document at http://libraries.msl.mt.gov/library_development/consulting/collection_management.aspx.

The mission of the library and a description of the clientele it serves

You should include your library's mission, so that people understand what your library does. It doesn't have to be long; it simply needs to indicate your role in the community. A broad description of your community helps with selection. If you have a lot of children in your community, you'll need to develop a strong children's collection. If you have older residents in your community, you may need to develop areas about medicine and/or health. The library should be a reflection of the community, so you want to make sure you understand whom it is that you are serving.

Intellectual Freedom

Libraries have historically supported the cause of intellectual freedom. The American Library Association (ALA) Office of Intellectual Freedom has created several documents on the subject. Many libraries refer or include a few of these documents in their collection development policies. Perhaps the most often referred to document is the "Freedom to Read Statement," which addresses the importance of the freedom to read what a person chooses. It is fundamental to democracy. You can find the "Freedom to Read Statement" on ALA's website:

ALA Freedom to Read Statement

Identify formats and subjects to be added to the collection

This is the place that can be most helpful in selecting new materials. If you are a new librarian, find your library's selection policy in order to determine what you should order. You need to identify what you are going to select for your collection. This should be related to your mission. If you are focusing on being a popular reading library, then you'll want to purchase best sellers and other popular fiction and non-fiction. If your mission is to support education, you may want to focus on developing a strong non-fiction collection. Besides identifying what subjects you might want to buy, you also need to look at which formats you want. This decision is based upon the needs of your community, as well as the feasibility of the format in a public library. For example pop-up books may be cute, but they wouldn't last long in a public library. These are the types of things to consider and possibly mention in your collection development policy.

When we think of formats, usually we remember print, audio, and video, but we should also consider electronic resources. By electronic resources, we mean electronic books, online magazines, DVD's and CD-ROMS. Electronic resources can be advantageous when we are dealing with material that is being constantly updated. Currently the Montana State Library has negotiated a statewide contract with three e-resource vendors (Ebsco, Gale, and Proquest). You can learn more about these products at : http://msl.mt.gov/Library_Development/For_All_Librarians/Collection_Management/Databases/default.asp.

So what do these products do? They give your library access to thousands of magazines ranging from technical journals to Time. You and your patrons can access this material from a personal computer, either at the library or at home. You have access to full text articles from many of the magazines. Call the Montana State Library at 1-800-338-5087 to find out more about these products.

Gifts and Donations

You need to address how you handle gifts and donations. This will vary according to your community and your library. Some gifts and/or donations may have strings attached. You must decide if the costs outweigh the advantages of accepting these gifts and/or donations.

Who selects and what criteria will be used?

You need to decide who is going to select the materials. It may be you or if you have a large enough staff you may want to divide up who selects the items. A children's librarian might be responsible for adding items to the juvenile collection, while the director is responsible for adding material to the adult collections. In this section, you should also address what criteria you will use when selecting materials. Some questions you might ask are: Is it a bestseller or popular author? Did it have a positive review?

Complaints or concerns about the materials

You must address how you will handle complaints about an item, whether it is in the library or not. This is a very important part of your policy and should be dealt with before you receive a complaint. You should have clear guidelines on how to handle this. Some questions to consider: Do you want the person to file a written complaint with the director? What is the process once a complaint has been filed? Can the person speak in front of the library board?

If an item in your library is challenged, please report the incident to the State Library. We keep a challenge list and these statistics are useful and of interest to many people in Montana.

Deselection (or weeding) material

The library must weed the collection for many reasons. We'll look at weeding specifically later in this chapter. This part of the policy should give your criteria for weeding an item, an explanation of why you weed and what is done with the materials after you have removed them from the collection.

Library Bill of Rights

The American Library Association affirms that all libraries are forums for information and ideas, and that the following basic policies should guide their services.

  1. Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.
  2. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or rem

Collection Management Honor Roll

The Montana State Library Commission has a Collection Management Honor Roll. To be on this honor roll, a library must have a current and approved collection development policy on file at the State Library and the librarian must add new items to OCLC's WorldCat catalog every year. We will talk about the OCLC catalog in the next chapter, but briefly it is a catalog where libraries around the world list their items. This makes it possible for other libraries to request items. For more information on the Collection Management Honor Roll, contact the Continuing Education Coordinator.

Selecting Items for the Collection

As mentioned earlier, your library should have a collection development policy that will guide your decisions. There are many things to consider when choosing items for the library. In this section, we will also take a look at acquisitions.

The selection process

Publishers will send you many catalogs advertising their books. The problem with this is that the intent is to sell the books, not give you a neutral viewpoint about the item's value. Because of this, many libraries rely on reviews from magazines such as BooklistLibrary Journal, and Publishers Weekly. For local authors, reviews may not be possible. In that case, you may want to visit local bookstores or develop a relationship with Montana publishers to keep abreast of new Montana information.

Questions to ask during the selection process

  • Does this material fit into the collection development policy? - This is where a quality collection development policy can be so helpful. It gives you an idea of what is important for your collection.
  • Is this likely to be asked for by anyone in my community? - The community should use library collections.
  • Does the review indicate that this is a high quality item? - Despite what people may think, you don't have time to read every item. Reviews can help you determine the quality of an item. One thing to keep in mind is that some items will be popular with your community no matter what the review says.
  • Even though Danielle Steel's latest book may not get the best review, you still want to purchase it.
  • Does the potential use of the material justify the cost? - A beautiful, but extremely expensive book may be tempting. Before you buy it ask yourself if anyone in your community will actually use it.
  • Is this an appropriate format for this information? - Should you buy a book about how to swim or would a video be better? Think about how people learn when deciding what to buy. Also think about how quickly the material may be outdated. Instead of buying that computer handbook, maybe you should invest in an online collection that updates computer information regularly.
  • In order to use this material, will we need new equipment? - Think of this in terms of electronic resources. If you purchase some electronic resources, will you need to purchase a new, faster computer to access those resources?


Once you have selected the materials, you begin the acquisitions process. Every library has its own acquisitions process, so we won't try to give you a step-by-step description. Talk with your library staff or board about how acquisitions are handled in your library. What we will try to do in this section is define some terminology.

On-Order File: Think of this as a way to keep from ordering the same item twice. An on-order file lets you keep track of what items you have already ordered.

Standing Orders: This is an agreement where the publisher will automatically send you certain new titles. The library determines what items are in a standing order. Typically certain reference items like almanacs or authors (such as John Grisham) are on a standing order list. Be sure and keep track of what you have on your standing order list, so you don't accidentally order an item. Review your list annually to make sure that the items are meeting your community's needs.

Jobbers: Jobbers are companies such as Ingram or Baker & Taylor who work with different publishers to provide materials to libraries. If you don't use a jobber, then you have to work with each individual publisher and you probably won't receive a substantial discount. Jobbers frequently give libraries large discounts. For some materials, you may have to go directly to the publisher.

Weeding or Deselection

It doesn't matter whether we call it weeding or deselection, many library staff struggle with this part of collection development. Weeding involves removing items from a library's collection. It's a complex process that could take up the entire handbook, if we let it. The Montana Library Association and Montana State Library both try to offer courses about collection development every year. Because of this and the many other resources out there, this is going to be an introduction to weeding rather than a detailed explanation of it. The following was based upon Belinda Boon's The CREW Method: Expanded Guidelines for Collection Evaluation and Weeding for Small and Medium-Sized Public Libraries. Copies are available at Montana State Library through Interlibrary Loan. This handbook was created by the Texas State Library, but has useful information for most public libraries.

What is the CREW method?

CREW stands for Continuous Review, Evaluation and Weeding. It's one method of weeding a collection and refers to the need to review and evaluate the collection. Based on what you discover you may need to weed parts of the collection.

Why Weed?

  • Weeding helps you save space and time. If your shelves are crammed full and you have to put books on the top of the shelves or in other places, you can understand why space is so important. It also takes a lot of time to look through the shelves and find what you are looking for. This applies to customers as well.
  • Your collection will be attractive and appealing to customers. See your collection through the eyes of your customers. Earlier we mentioned assessing the collection. After doing an assessment do you see shelves that are too full with old, ragged books? Your customers aren't going to find that appealing. Weeding helps the collection look cleaner and neater. It also makes way for newer materials.
  • Old information may be inaccurate and in some cases dangerous. Weeding removes misleading items from the collection. Do you want your library to have a reputation for having old books? Wouldn't you rather be the place people come to for accurate up-to-date information?
  • Weeding helps you monitor and evaluate your collection. It can reveal strengths and weaknesses.

How and what do I weed?

  • This is where a strong collection development policy is helpful. List your criteria for weeding and who will do the weeding. Each library will have slightly different criteria, but some general rules of thumb are to weed:
  • Materials that are inaccurate or outdated. Medical and science books from the 1950s range from wrong to dangerous.
  • Materials that are worn out, ragged, dirty or in poor condition. Weeding these items makes the collection more attractive.
  • Unused materials. Items that haven't circulated in x number of years should be removed. Removing these items makes room for newer books that might circulate.

What do I do with items I've weeded?

  • Check with the governing authority (city/county government) for rules that may govern how the library can get rid of material.
  • Sell the items in an ongoing book sale or at an annual one.
  • Donate the items to a nursing home, local school, or correctional facility. If you do this, give the higher quality items. Don't give these facilities books that have inaccurate information or are of poor quality.
  • Trade the item with another library for an item that you will use.
  • Recycle the items.
  • Destroy the items by either throwing them away or burning them. Both of these have negative connotations, so if at all possible try to avoid doing this. Be aware that negative publicity can come from destroying the items, which is another reason for avoiding this alternative.

Technical Services

Technical Services Overview

Organizing Your Collection

Classification and Cataloging

Processing and Mending

Technical Services Overview

Library staff has done a wonderful job of making it look like books appear on the shelf magically. We've become so good at making the transition seamless that most patrons have no idea what really goes on in a library. You might say that technical services is the behind the scenes part of the library. It's the department where items are ordered, cataloged and processed. It's also the place for mending. We discussed ordering items in the last chapter. In this chapter we'll take a look at organizing your collection, cataloging, processing, and mending.

Organizing Your Collection

Think about your personal collections of books. If you walk into someone's home and look at their collection of books or even music, most of the time it's not in any real order. It's easy for them to find what they are looking for, but you would have a harder time. When customers walk into a library, they are usually looking for something. If your library were organized like someone's home library, the customers would not be able to find what they were looking for. This is why we organize the library. It makes it easier for people to find what they need.

Cataloging helps us organize the library. It doesn't have to be a mystery, although it is something of an art. Simplicity should be your goal. You may have the most elaborate and beautiful cataloging system in the world, but if no one can figure it out then it is useless. If items are simply arranged, it is easier for patrons to find what they are looking for, and it is also easier to train staff.

So how should items be arranged? There are some things you must consider. The first is your user. How do people look for things? Is the item non-fiction or fiction? You wouldn't want to mix the two. People looking for a history of the United States generally want facts, not fiction. What is the reading level of the item? Is it appropriate for children? Young Adults? Adults? It makes sense to sort some things out. You probably want to separate some of the children's books. We say some, because it is often useful to have children's non-fiction with the adult non-fiction. You may want to have a separate section for young adults, one they can call their own.

Your library should reflect your community, so how many sections you have will depends upon your users. Do your mystery readers want to peruse a section that is just mystery books? Or do they enjoy working their way through all the fiction? Here are some things to consider when organizing your library.

Some separate grouping of materials is customary:

  • By broad Reading Levels (picture books, juvenile and adult books)
  • Fiction (story) and Non-fiction (facts)
  • Format - magazines, audio recordings, videos, books
  • Reference and/or other material that can only be used in the library

Arranging the books within the section depends upon the type of book:

  • Picture books and/or easy books are for children in primary grades. These are also great books to read aloud. It is very difficult to keep these books in alphabetical order by the author's last name, so some libraries group them together by the first letter of the author's name. All of the authors whose name starts with A are together; all the ones whose names start with B are together, etc. Some libraries will put a colored label or tape on the spine of the book to aid in shelving.
  • Juvenile and Young Adult Fiction are usually shelved in a separate area from Adult fiction. The reading skills, interests, and height of the user are some of the reasons for this. You want children to be able to use the items, so you have lower shelving for children. A well-developed young adult section can encourage young adults to use the library. Some libraries will put colored dots on the spine of Accelerated Reader Books, which helps children identify what books will fulfill the Accelerated Reader program requirement.
  • Adult fiction is placed in alphabetical order by the author's last name. Some libraries have separate shelving for a particular genre of fiction, such as mystery, science fiction, or westerns. Many libraries will have stickers on the spine that indicate what genre a book is. This makes it easier for readers to find what they want. Readers may prefer having the sections separated. However, there are reasons for interfiling all of the adult fiction.
  • Shifting books or rearranging the collection is easier, which gives the library more flexibility.
  • Stories by one author are all shelved together.
  • Readers may be attracted to another title, which they would not normally seek out.
  • It can be difficult to determine what genre a book is from.
  • Nonfiction books are facts about real things, peoples, places, etc. Some libraries separate juvenile and adult nonfiction, but there are some reasons why you might want to interfile the nonfiction books.

Adults don't often go to the children's section. By interfiling both, adults can find quality children's nonfiction that may be useful.

  • Adults who are poor readers are not stigmatized by using the children's section of the library.
  • Children with excellent reading skills can easily find materials when all the books on the same topic are grouped together.
  • The collection is less fragmented in arrangement.

Typically children's books are labeled with a J before the classification number. Books are shelved by numbers, not by the J. Labeling the books makes it easier for library users to identify the children's books.

  • A biography is an account of someone's life. There are many different ways to shelve biographies. They can start with the call number 92, 920-928, B, or they can be interfiled with other nonfiction books based on characteristics of the person's life. The advantages of filing in any of these ways is probably not worth a change from what the library is currently doing.
  • Montana collections are books (both fiction and nonfiction) about Montana. Generally you should keep these items together, as this is a popular topic.
  • Reference books are used for informational needs, rather than to be read in their entirety. Encyclopedias, dictionaries, atlases, etc. are examples of reference books. Most libraries do not let reference books circulate, although library staff may give exceptions. People sometimes need assistance in locating information in the reference section, so it is useful to have the collection near a librarian's desk. This makes it easier for a librarian to assist the customer.
  • Magazines and newspapers can require different shelving units. Companies that sell library furniture have special display units for both. The biggest issue with both magazines and newspapers is how long to keep back issues. Most libraries try to keep at least the current year of magazines.
  • Some will keep issues longer. It depends on the amount of storage space your library has. Newspapers do not have to be kept for an entire year. Some libraries keep only three months worth of back issues. If no one in your community is keeping back issues of the local paper or microfilming it, then consider keeping these. For local history purposes, it is a wonderful service.
  • Paperbacks are handled differently in various libraries. Some public libraries only add donated paperbacks to the collection. They do not purchase or catalog paperbacks. Although paperbacks are a popular collection, they simply don't stand up well to repeated use.
  • Audiovisual materials are popular with library patrons. Today there are many formats to consider. Books are available on tape and CD. Movies can be VHS or DVDs. Consider your community when you decide what to purchase. Most libraries shelve audiovisual materials separately from the books.
  • Electronic books, magazines, and databases are part of a growing collection of electronic resources. Library staff can purchase magazine databases that will give them access to more magazines then they could possibly buy in paper format. The State of Montana, understanding the importance of these databases, has subsidized the purchase. Each year the Montana State Library explores the possibility of adding electronic databases.
  • Downloadable audiobooks or videos are another option for libraries. Currently many public libraries in Montana are a part of MontanaLibrary2Go, a service where library patrons can download a audiobooks and ebooks to their computers and mobile devices. To learn more about MontanaLibrary2Go please see http://libraries.msl.mt.gov/statewide_projects/montanalibrary2go.

Statewide Library Projects

Classification and Cataloging

Did you realize how many different formats a library offers? Keeping track of everything can be difficult. We've just talked about how to organize the actual materials; we now need to discuss classification and cataloging. Like reference, more knowledgeable people than us have written plenty of books on the topic. Two common resources are Dewey Decimal Classification and Sears List of Subject Headings. This is just going to be a brief discussion of what cataloging is.

Fiction books are shelved in alphabetical order by the author's last name. That's straightforward enough, now on to nonfiction. Most public libraries use the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) system for nonfiction items. Dewey is a classification system that uses numbers to indicate where a book should be shelved. Items with the same subject are shelved together. It's probably easiest to give you an example.

374.28 is the Dewey decimal number for adult education centers. All books about this topic will be assigned this number. So how do you distinguish one book about adult education centers from another? Cutters. What is that? Cutters vary depending upon the library, but most either use all letters or a combination of letters and numbers. Most libraries use the first three or four letters from the author's last name. It would take pages and pages of information to describe classification to you. It can get really complicated. The good news is that there are continuing education opportunities and books that talk about classification and cataloging.

Here is a list of what Dewey calls the ten classes of knowledge. It's where all nonfiction call numbers start.

Call numbers









Social Sciences




Pure science


Applied science (Technology)


The Arts




General Geography and history

There you have it: the ten major classes of knowledge. To understand how DDC works, think of it as going from general to specific. Dewey does this by using decimals. 300 is social sciences; 370 is education; 374 is Adult Education; 374.28 is community centers for adult education. Do you see how this works? Each time you add a number, you get more specific.

Still confused? Well the good news is that libraries don't have to classify and catalog all of their items. Companies, such as Baker & Taylor, offer cataloging services. The company catalogs the item and sends the library a catalog card or an electronic record that can be downloaded into an automation system. The problem is that these companies don't have the best cataloging skills. So what other option do you have?

OCLC, the Online Computer Library Center, maintains a WorldCat database of over sixty- million bibliographic records and offers two products to assist librarians with cataloging needs: Connexion and CatExpress. Libraries can subscribe to these products and receive electronic records to download into their automated library systems.

Connexion is primarily used by libraries with larger collections or those with lots of relatively unique items requiring cataloging. This type of work involves what is called "original cataloging" and can be done via a Web-based interface or by using a program downloaded directly to a library computer.

For libraries with smaller collections or those that possess more common items in the main, the cataloging tool of choice from OCLC is CatExpress. This Web-based program supports a simpler cataloging process called "copy cataloging." Library staff looks for the best records in the OCLC WorldCat database and downloads those records into an automation system. This saves time and increases cataloging accuracy. If you're not the best person at determining what an item is about and how it should be classified, you can benefit from the experience of people who specialize in cataloging.

Currently, Montana State Library offers libraries a chance to be part of a statewide contract and purchase a subscription to Connexion and/or CatExpress for a much lower price than they could receive on their own.

What if you would like to do your own cataloging? Keep in mind that original cataloging is time consuming. Here are the things you need to identify when cataloging an item:



Publisher, place of publication, data

Physical description (number of pages, height in centimeters, illustrations, maps, etc.)

Identifying numbers (ISBN, ISSN) and other information specific to an item (series, edition, etc.)

Content of the book - this is used to determine what the book is about and what subject headings are needed.

What does good cataloging provide?

A description of the item. Who is the author, illustrator, creator? Is the item part of a series? Is it illustrated? Does it have a map? Does it come with audio recordings or CD-ROMs? How many pages does it have? Is it part of a multi-volume set? What other characteristics make the book unique?

Entries. These are access points or how the patron finds the book. Traditional entries are:

Main entry (usually the first author listed)

Subject entry (what is the book about)

Title entry (title of the book)

Added entry (additional titles for the book, illustrator, second author, series, etc.)

Shelf list (the inventory record for the library, not available to the public)

Can you see why most libraries use copy cataloging? Classifying and cataloging items is an art that's best left to people who have learned how to do it and specialize in it. For the rest of us, there are products such as CatExpress.

Earlier we mentioned the Montana Shared Catalog. If your library is in a shared catalog, one of the advantages is that you can attach your library's copy of an item to an existing record in the catalog. Here's how this would work. Let's say you've just received John Grisham's The Summons. Before looking at CatExpress, you should check the shared catalog to see if a record for The Summons is already in there. If it is, you add your holding (a holding is the way you let people know that you own the item). Voila! You're finished and can move on to the next item. Some shared catalogs will transfer your records to the OCLC WorldCat database used by Connexion and CatExpress. Adding your holdings to WorldCat lets the world know that you have a particular item. This is very helpful in facilitating interlibrary loans of library materials.

Dewey Decimal Classification System


010 Bibliography

020 Library and Information Sciences

030 General Encyclopedic Works

040 Not assigned

050 General Serial Publications

060 General Organizations & Museology

070 News Media, Journalism, Publishing

080 General Collections

090 Manuscripts & Rare Books


110 Metaphysics

120 Epistemology, causation, humankind

130 Paranormal Phenomena

140 Specific Philosophical Schools

150 Psychology

160 Logic

170 Ethics (Moral Philosophy)

180 Ancient, Medieval, Oriental Phil.

190 Modern Western Philosophy


210 Philosophy & Theory of Religion

220 Bible

230 Christian Theology

240 Christian Moral & Devotional Theol.

250 Christian Orders & Local Church

260 Social & Ecclesiastical Theology

270 Hist. of Christianity & Chr. Church

280 Christian Denominations & Sects

290 Comp. Religion & Other Religion


310 Collections of General Statistics

320 Political Science

330 Economics

340 Law

350 Public Administration & Military Science

360 Social Problems & Services

370 Education

380 Commerce, Communications, Transport

390 Customs, Etiquette, Folklore


410 Linguistics

420 English & Old English

430 Germanic Languages German

440 Romance Languages French

450 Italian, Romanian, Rhaeto-Romanic

460 Spanish & Portuguese Languages

470 Italic Languages Latin

480 Hellenic Languages Classical Greek

490 Other Languages


510 Mathematics

520 Astronomy & Allied Sciences

530 Physics

540 Chemistry & Allied Sciences

550 Earth Sciences

560 Paleontology, Paleozoology

570 Life Sciences, Biology

580 Plants

590 Animals

600 TECHNOLOGY (Applied Sciences)

610 Medical Sciences, Medicine

620 Engineering & Allied Operations

630 Agriculture & Related Technology

640 Home Economics & Family Living

650 Management & Auxiliary Services

660 Chemical Engineering

670 Manufacturing

680 Manufacture for Specific Uses

690 Buildings

700 THE ARTS (Fine and Decorative)

710 Civic & Landscape Art

720 Architecture

730 Plastic Arts, Sculpture

740 Drawing & Decorative Arts

750 Painting and Paintings

760 Graphic Arts, Printmaking

770 Photography & Photographs

780 Music

790 Recreational & Performing Arts


810 American Literature in English

820 English & Old English Literatures

830 Literatures of Germanic Languages

840 Literatures of Romance Languages

850 Italian, Romanian, Phaeto-Romanic

860 Spanish & Portuguese Literatures

870 Italic Literatures Latin

880 Hellenic Literature, Classical Greek

890 Literatures of Other Languages


910 Geography & Travel

920 Biography, Genealogy, Insignia

930 History of Ancient World to ca. 499

940 General History of Europe

950 General History of Asia

960 General History of Africa

970 General History of North America

980 General History of South America

990 General History of Other Areas

Processing and Mending

Processing and mending are so unique to individual libraries that we won't go into details. Processing occurs when a library receives an item. Essentially it is the time it takes a librarian to prepare an item for check out, use at reference, or other purposes. It can include such things as creating spine labels, book pockets, catalog cards, and stamping an item with an ownership mark.

Mending occurs when an item needs repair. Again this depends upon the library. In some libraries volunteers handle it, while in others a library staff member is responsible. One thing to keep in mind is that an item may not be worth mending. Remove the book from the library collection if it is out-dated, torn, or dirty.

Public Relations

Public Relations Overview

Library’s Image



Community Relations

Role of Trustees


Public Relations Overview

Public relations is more than marketing. Think of it as creating and maintaining positive relations between the community and the library. Today people are bombarded with information and advertising. Places like the public library can get lost in the shuffle, which is why we need to spotlight ourselves. Libraries can offer so much to the local community, but part of our job is educating our community about what we offer. Marketing is about understanding our community's needs and wants, and then showing how the library meets those needs and wants. In this chapter, we will discuss the library's image, publicity, programming, community relations, and the role of the trustee.

Library’s Image

What do people see when they go to your library? What do both users and non-users think of the library? Developing a positive image and creating a warm, welcoming place is important. If you don't have either of these then you can work on your publicity, programming, etc., but it won't make any difference. If people perceive the library in a negative light, nothing you do will bring them into the library.

So how can you develop a positive image and make the library inviting? One of the best ways is free! Library staff must practice excellent customer service skills. An inviting smile, a greeting when customers come in the door can make a huge difference in how people perceive the library. Don't forget the telephone. Be sure you and other staff members are always courteous on the phone. Customers who call deserve the same professional and positive experience as those who walk in the door.

Make sure library staff receive training in customer service and the various library departments. It is important for staff to understand the basics of every department in the library. Someone working in circulation can then explain the process of adding a new book to a questioning customer. Having this basic knowledge can make your staff feel more confident and appear more professional and competent to your customers. The best form of advertising is word-of-mouth from satisfied customers to others.

Once you and your library staff have created a welcoming service environment, take a look at your library. Are there directional signs that make it easy for people to find what they are looking for? Does the library look neat and clean? Is it comfortable? Think of places you have been that have made you feel welcome and if possible incorporate those ideas into your library. Bright colors, simple directions, comfortable surroundings, simplicity, and a willingness by staff to serve with a smile will give your library a positive image.

For many of us, marketing and publicity is the same thing, but marketing has some components that publicity doesn't have. What we are referring to is using newspapers, radio stations and other techniques to inform people about the library.


You can develop bookmarks, flyers, and newsletters. These should be simple, colorful and useful. Typically this is a time intensive, but less expensive way of marketing the library. What kinds of information should these items have? Your library hours, phone numbers, storytime hours, and special events are all good for this type of publicity. Have these items available at the various service desks. People can pick them up or staff members can hand the items out.

Book lists, displays and exhibits typically address a certain subject. Book lists give people an idea of what books the library has on a topic. Displays and exhibits can do this as well. The difference is the visual impact. While book lists may list several items, the displays and exhibits let people actually look at the item. You can do a formal display focusing on a particular topic or you can display books throughout the library. Choose eye-catching covers that make people want to check a book out. For exhibits work with other local artists, students, etc. This works to the advantage of both groups, since you both get a chance to do some publicity. Plus this is helpful for developing positive public relations and highlighting the importance of the library as a community center.

Advertising in the newspaper, on the radio or television is more formal, but has the potential to reach non-users. It's important to develop good relations with your local media. Find out when the deadlines are and what the procedure is for inserting something into the newspaper or onto a radio or TV station. Human-interest stories are the best, both for the media format and for your audience. We relate to stories about people and their experiences with the library more than we do stories about numbers, etc. Photographs of library events and people add to the story and are very important.

Another thing you can do is put your library events into the newspaper community events column, which is usually free.

A library website is another way to promote the library. Think of a website as giving your patrons access to the library 24 hours a day. Even if you are small, there are some valuable things you can add to a website. First it's a place to list hours, phone numbers, and contact information. You can also list library services and how to get library cards. If you are automated and your system has the software to do this, you can have a link to your catalog from your website. Patrons can search your collection to see if you have an item they want. With sophisticated online catalogs patrons can even reserve an item, see what they have checked out, and place ILL requests. Your website could also have information about special events coming up in the library, sites you recommend people visit, exhibits featuring local information, and lots of other useful stuff. The only limitation is how much time you have to devote to the website.

This is another place where an online shared catalog can be useful. Even if you do not have the time to develop a website, you can at least offer patrons access to your materials via the shared catalog. Another library is responsible for the technical aspects of having your materials online. The customer is then able to access the collection at any time.

Be creative in how you publicize the library. It can be the difference between a well-known and well-used library and one that is not.


We talked about programming in the public services chapter, so we are not going into a lot of detail here. While many libraries have storytime and summer reading programs, programming is unique to each library. Programming is yet another way of marketing the library and improving public relations. It can offer new services to library users and even draw in non-library users. Many times a program can be done for free or at a low cost. Remember to keep your community in mind as you decide what types of programming to offer.

Community Relations

Working with your community to build a better library is important. You should get out of your library, either by speaking at local civic clubs, joining the Chamber of Commerce or by helping other local groups. Getting out of the library helps you meet non-library users who may be able to give you ideas on how to make the library more welcoming for them. When you give presentations about the library, take bookmarks, flyers, etc. with you. It gives you the opportunity to sell the library, and it means people will take something home with them.

When other local groups (gardening clubs, etc.) are offering programs, help them out by providing bibliographies or having displays in the library. You might also loan them book collections. Ask your community's special groups for specific assistance in promoting a project or program. Be sure to offer them help when they need it. In these times, communities must work together. You can help each other out and in doing so help improve community relations.

The public library should try to work with the school system. We're all aware of times when teachers assign homework without realizing the effects on the library (public or school). If you work with the school librarian and the school's teachers, together you can create a better environment for students. You can offer to visit classes, give library tours, or help out with special teacher loans of materials and reserves. You should also consider working with parent groups.

Role of Trustees

Public relations are so important to libraries that trustees must be involved. You and your trustees should discuss what the trustee's specific role is. Possibilities include assisting with speeches on library topics at public meetings and working with local leaders and organizations to promote the library. Trustees can also help out by discussing the library in day-to-day conversations. The library board's actions can affect the public's concept of the library. A board needs to be a part of any public relations plan.

What's Your Story?

Montana State Library, in partnership with the Montana Library Association, has developed a marketing and public relations campaign that Montana libraries are encouraged to utilize to market their own libraries, programs, and services within their communities. The campaign, "What's Your Story? Find it at the Library!" is a multi-year effort, united by a single logo, and will target a different market demographic in each year of the campaign. "What's Your Story?" provides Montana librarians with a wide range of tools and materials to market their libraries to specific segments of the population. These include programming ideas, tips for book discussion groups, posters, bookmarks, and guidelines for writing powerful public service announcements, print ads, and press releases. The materials are available online at: http://msl.mt.gov/whatsyourstory.

What's Your Story?

Friends and Volunteers

Friends and Volunteers Overview

Friends of the Library

How to Organize a Friends Group

How to Revitalize Your Friends


Volunteer Programs

Recruiting Volunteers

Managing and Keeping Volunteers

Friends and Volunteers Overview

Friends of the Library and volunteers can be wonderful assets to a library. Both groups help the library build a network of library supporters and both can help library staff accomplish more. In this chapter we'll talk about how friends and volunteers can help, how to recruit them, and how to manage them. Try talking to other libraries about their success with friends and volunteers. Your public library colleagues probably have the best hints and tips.

Friends of the Library

Friends of the Library are organized to support and promote libraries. A Friends group can help assess your library's strengths and weaknesses, provide financial and moral support, and advocate for the library and its cause. Friends do not have a policy-making role; they are meant to help improve and extend services. Just as the public library promotes the common good of the community, so too can the community work to promote the good of the library.

In many Montana communities, citizens who support the public library have established Friends of the Library organizations. A Friends of the Library group is a nonprofit organization that voluntarily supports library causes and services. Each group has its own bylaws, board, committees and policies, and sets its own goals.

It is important for you to work closely with the Friends group to ensure that the goals of these volunteers are consistent with those of the library. The Friends' role can be enormously important, especially in small libraries with very limited budgets.

The Friends can serve as publicity agents for the library: sponsoring cultural and educational programs. They can also be advocates for the library with local government. They can develop and coordinate volunteer services in cooperation with the library director and staff; organize fund-raising events; and encourage donations of books, videos, DVD's and other materials, as well as bequests and endowments.

To prevent public confusion or misunderstanding about the role of the Friends group, you and your library board need to clearly communicate the library's needs and your expectations of the friends organization. In some communities, a trustee is appointed to act as a liaison to the Friends to ensure coordination of the group's activities with the library policies and goals. In turn, a member of the Friends group might be invited to attend library board meetings.

There is a Friends of Libraries U.S.A. group that has great information about Friends groups. Their website is http://www.folusa.org. The following information was gathered from FOLUSA.

American Library Association (ALA) has a division called Association of Library Trustees, Advocates, Friends and Foundations that has great information about Friends groups. Its website is http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/altaff/.

ALA Association of Library Trustees, Advocates, Friends and Foundations

How to Organize a Friends Group

  • Determine the purpose of the Friends. Do you need them to raise money? Volunteer at the library? Advocate for the library? Provide public relations? Or are the Friends a way to get the community involved?
  • Select a steering committee to develop a Friends group. The committee should be composed of people from different backgrounds who have diverse skills. You need someone who has PR experience, leadership skills, knowledge of the law, and many other talents are useful, too.
  • Your Friends need to be tax-exempt; otherwise they will have to pay taxes on any money they make. A lawyer can help you with this process.
  • Define your dues structure and membership categories. Will you let families join? Do you want individual memberships? Businesses? You do not need to decide how much the dues are, you simply need to decide how you will organize your membership.
  • Decide on how you will publicize the Friends. Will you have a brochure? Will you have posters? What artwork or logo do you want? How will you distribute this information?
  • Begin your campaign drive to recruit members. As much as possible, include trustees, elected officials, and other important people in the community.
  • Decide on a tentative schedule for the first year. This helps you recruit members, because you'll have committees they can join.
  • If you need your Friends to raise funds for the library, set goals and objectives. People like to know where their money is going.
  • Set your first meeting date. Make the agenda brief.
  • Develop a long-range plan for the Friends and re-evaluate it periodically.
  • The above cove