A behind the scenes look at the Winnipeg Public Library’s holds pick-up service

Approx. 100 holds per hour were placed during December and January

Library books packed in boxes

Escaping into a good book is one of the many ways people are dealing with the stresses of the pandemic. The Winnipeg Public Library has adapted its services to ensure readers are still able to access its collection, while following the Province of Manitoba’s Public Health Orders.

“This pandemic is hard on all of us, if we can help give people something to read, to distract, it means so much,” said Barbara Bourrier-LaCroix, the Acting Administrative Coordinator of Virtual Services for the Winnipeg Public Library.

The library’s contactless holds pick-up service launched in early December and has grown in popularity. In December and January combined 145,618 holds were placed. That works out to an average of roughly 100 holds being placed every hour. There were 122,591 holds picked up during the same time span.

“We get books into people’s hands, either physical or digital. It is one of our biggest reasons for being here,” said Ed Cuddy, Manager of Library Services.

The process is quite simple for the reader, who places a hold on an item through either the online catalogue or the library’s mobile app. They then wait for the notice their items are ready for pick up at their requested branch. It’s what happens while they wait for the item to be ready that is really impressive.

“There is a lot more than people realize that goes in behind the scenes and we do it pretty quickly given the circumstances,” said Bourrier-LaCroix.

She said every library runs a daily report on what customers put on hold. Employees then head into the stacks to pull all the requested books. The items are then prepared to be sent out to the requested pick-up branch location. Each branch has a box for every branch to sort items requested to be picked up elsewhere.

Before the boxes make it to their final destination, they are delivered to the shipping section of Millennium Library. Employees in that area sort through each item, and then work to ensure they get sent out to the branch that requested it. Having a central location for shipping ensures efficiency in deliveries. On any given day, roughly 300 boxes filled with an estimated 6,000 books and items make their way through this area.

The items are then delivered to the requested branch pick up location. Once they arrive, residents receive an email or call to let them know they can pick up their items.

When the items are then returned, they are placed in quarantine for a period of time before returning to circulation for someone else to enjoy.

“We’ve heard from our customers about the positive impact having books to read during this time has had on them,” said Bourrier-LaCroix “We weren’t surprised by the popularity of the holds pick up service, but it shows how important the work we do is for the community and we’re proud to be able to offer this service.”

As of March 15, 2021, you can now go inside all branches to pick-up your hold items, with the exception of Cornish Library which is closed for renovations. 

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