Monday, January 04, 2021 Charleston County Library

CHARLESTON, S.C. - When a branch opens in the Charleston County Public Library system, every book is brand new. After a while, the books are checked out, well loved, and the journey with Charleston County will come to an end. This is all part of the life cycle of a book. 

A book's life cycle has five stages. First, a team of library selectors decide which titles are a good fit for the collection. 

"They're basically looking at professional reviews from the industry: Library Journal, Book List, Kirkus. And then they are also looking at measures of popularity, for instance the New York Times Book List," said Amy Quesenbery, the manager of LCATS (Library Collections, Acquisitions, and Technical Services).

Then the orders arrive in large shipments which are unpacked, processed, and added to the shelves.

This means putting on spine labels, and putting barcodes on the items. Also, our catalogers are working with the item to describe the title for the catalog. The cataloger is who creates all the descriptive information and all the metadata that makes it possible to retrieve that information," she said.

Now this is the fun part. The books are circulated, checked out over and over again, traveling across Charleston County and beyond. 

"It really lives an exciting time. It's not really on the library shelves very long. It passes around the community; it can really go all over the world depending on where the patron takes it," said CCPL's Executive Director Angela Craig. "By the time it comes back, it has lived several lifetimes. It isn't like a book that you have on your home shelf." 

Next comes weeding. This means a reevaluation of the inventory based on many factors.

"Weeding is a natural part of any library. Books, particularly when they're well loved, get to a point where it's just not a great idea to check them out any more or the information is dated. So weeding is part of a healthy life cycle of a book. We are coming up on a renovation cycle for three of our regional libraries and so we are excited to get in with the collection and do some weeding there," CCPL's Executive Director, Angela Craig, said. 

The books that no longer fit CCPL's standards for circulation are given new life.

"We will give those to the Friends of the Library. We also have opportunities with our Outreach Department for pop-up locations," she said.

The books that can't be used for the Outreach Department or Friends of the Library go to Thrift Books.

"It's a book reseller. They work with libraries and basically anything that Thrift will accept, which is just about anything, is packed up, sent to Thrift. They resell it, what they can't resell they recycle, and then they cut a check back to the Friends for a percentage of what they sell, and then that goes back to funding our library programs," Quesenbery said.

"We also have a recycling company where, the books that we absolutely cannot do anything else with, we respectfully recycle," Craig said. 

If there's a book you think needs to be a part of the Charleston County Public Library collection, you can request it here