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Libraries order multiple copies of popular books

I love to read and am appreciative of our Jackson County Library Services. However, I have a couple of questions. First, I was wondering how they determine which branches get books. I've spent hours perusing the shelves of the Eagle Point library and gone home empty-handed. I've discovered to find something I'd like to read, I need to go online and place a request. So often it seems, the books need to be shipped in. They usually arrive from either the Medford or Ashland branches. Secondly, I wondered why don't they stock more than one copy of a popular title? I recently placed a couple of requests. They had one copy each — one title had 22 requests, the other 43. I realize the library has limited funding, but can't they do a bit better than this? As an avid reader, I have to wonder.

— Sue, Eagle Point

Before Jackson County libraries closed temporarily in 2007 because of a funding crisis, library staff members used to pack up books and rotate them around to the different library branches multiple times each year, according to Holly Hertel, a reference librarian who works at the Medford branch.

"It was very time- and staff-intensive," she said.

After the libraries reopened with fewer employees, the system changed, and books were no longer rotated systematically among the branches.

Hertel said books instead are re-shelved at the branch where they are turned in by users. Books tend to cluster at the Medford and Ashland branches because people often turn their books in there.

Books also gravitate toward Medford and Ashland because users of those branches often put hold requests on books, then turn them back in at those branches when they are done, Hertel said.

As for the second part of your question, she said the library system does in fact order multiple copies of popular books. But while the book is on order, one copy is listed in the library catalog. That allows people to place requests for a popular title before it even arrives.

Although it may look like there are dozens of requests for a single book, multiple copies of the book may be on the way. Hertel encouraged people to go ahead and get on the waiting list for popular books.

"We don't want people to think they have to wait forever for a book," she said.

—Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. To see a collection of columns, go to mailtribune.com/youasked. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.