Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Transit Processing

A patron walks into a Library (why don't more jokes start out like this, and, no, sorry, this isn't a joke). This person comes to me at the front desk because they want some item that's listed in the catalog with a curious, ambivalent status. Is it available? Can I procure this item for them?

The status is called Transit Processing and I am going to out it now. First I will say that there is incredibly little I will not out at the Library. I enjoy providing information, and it is part of our mission here, so I don't know why I'd withhold the truth even if the explanation involves describing a misguided Library policy and all its twisted and fascinating history, or perhaps having to describe a co-worker as "profoundly confused." The story of Transit Processing is barely a secret and not much of an outing, but here goes.

Technically Transit Processing simply means that the item has recently been returned and so is all caught up in one of the stages of our shelving process. This status was designed for the following reasons:

1. To keep patron expectations about immediately acquiring the item low.

2. To give staff easier plausibility in describing the item as "unavailable" as opposed to "a lot of hard work for me."

There have been an assortment of policy directives regarding this status since it was created, most or all of them saying that we are to tell patrons these items are unavailable and that we should not search for them. So, the only real official word that has come out on this status is that we should normally treat it as meaning unavailable.

But here is a thing I love about my Library. I don't know how many, but a lot of people working here will go look for that item for a patron because the general culture here is that doing right by a patron, if you can, trumps policy. It's not paradise here and this will not work out with the more jaded or lazy staff, but often enough it does win out. Even a person largely responsible for writing and emphasizing a rule like "We are not to search for the item" might, probably even will, when it comes down to an actual breathing patron who wants something, do the kind and human thing.

What about me? What do I do when a patron wants an item in Transit Processing?

I will try to find the thing. What else? We're a Library. If we are terribly busy I will make a very quick, concentrated stab at finding the thing and will generally look just a tiny bit longer than I should.  The hard part really is judging when to give up. Often enough these items are too deep in to be found in any reasonable amount of time. Unfortunately the longer I look the more painful it is to give up. If I can't find it I'll come out and put it on request for the person, offer sympathy, and reiterate what I would have told them before I started my search, that sometimes they just aren't findable amidst so much stuff.

But I am not perfect, and if I do find the elusive Transit Processing item I have to tell you that I generally force the patron to pay a price. The price they must pay is that if I find it they have to listen to the whole exciting story of my search.

"There were like seven bins full of DVDs and I was digging through them, but it seemed hopeless after awhile so I decided I had to give up, but as I was starting to walk away I saw this glint of a red letter against white brick, almost winking at me, way down in one of the bins I thought I had already searched pretty thoroughly. I almost kept going, but then some part of me thought 'you know, that's just the look of the cover of Notting Hill, starring Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts, and so I reached down and there it was!"

It's not really a classic anecdote, is it? Not a classic, no. But even then I can't resist adding, as I check out to them their well earned DVD  "I've seen this movie so many times I pretty much have it memorized."

"Really? It's good?" The patron replies. "I've never seen it. My friend said we have to watch this tonight."

And now they can.

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