Skip to main content

As You Like It

Literary news, book reviews
and more…   rss-icon 

Behind the Scenes at ACPL: A day in the Material Support Services department

by Emma R | Apr 11, 2017

National Library Week 2017

MSS in action

You checked out The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain. Maybe you found it in Readers' Services, Teens, or Children’s; maybe you found it at a branch. You return it. And you don’t see it again until you’re browsing the shelves and there it is. Your book. The one with the bookmark that you forgot and thought you'd lost forever.

Where did the book go after you returned it? And how did it get back on the shelf?

At some point or another, it passed through MSS.

Wait, what?

MSS stands for Material Support Services. You don’t see this department because MSS is in the basement at the Main library. You sometimes see us pushing carts, shelving books, or dropping something off in a department.  MSS is one of the cogs that keeps ACPL up and running.

What happens in MSS that’s so important?

If you returned your book at the Main library, we pick it up from one of our drops. We have four — a walk-up book drop off of Ewing Street, an inside book drop near the Check Out desk, an inside book drop near the Plaza Security desk, and the drive-up book drop off of Wayne Street.  We check each drop about once an hour.  Every book that is returned is checked in by us. 

Wayne Street book drop conveyer belt

If you returned your book at Main, but it belongs at a branch location, it has some more traveling to do once it gets checked in. Down in MSS we sort all of the materials into courier tubs.  The tubs are then picked up by our couriers and taken to the proper branch location.

Courier tubs


If you returned your book at Main and it belongs at Main, it takes a trip down our sorting line. 

A busy day

Each of those lines has tubs going to different departments in Main (Readers' Fiction, Children’s Non-Fiction, Popular Library, etc). What happens next is loading, and depending on the day this can happen quickly or slowly — each section of a department has its books loaded onto a cart and pushed out into the hallway for shelving

Carts of books


Now, most of you know the departments at Main — Readers' Services and Children’s on the first floor; Business, Science & Technology, Teens, and the two departments of Art, Music & Media on the second floor. What some of you may not know is that underneath your feet are two levels of storage…and they are HUGE—as in, over 1,000,000 books kind of huge!

We spend a lot of time in storage. If we’re not returning items to their places on the shelf, or shelf reading (which is, literally, just us ‘reading’ the shelf and making sure everything’s in order), then we’re fetching items people have requested from storage and bringing them upstairs. 

Whew. We do that all day, every day, and make sure that the book you returned—remember The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn?—is back on the shelf for you or the next patron to enjoy.


*Photo credits go to Keri, Lorie, and Emma (MSS).


Leave a comment
  1. Emma R | Apr 20, 2017

    Donna, I'm so glad you found it interesting! And you're welcome--hopefully you'll keep coming back to As You Like It and checking out our insanely cool content. :)

  2. Emma R | Apr 17, 2017

    Mary: I never knew this department existed until I got a job there. We try to keep everything as organized and efficient as we can, and everyone at ACPL is so grateful that it works for you and that you appreciate it--it's why we're here. :)

    Charleen: I'm not sure if I ever got the chance to meet you, but I'm so glad that others in MSS did and that I could share a little more information about what we do with you.

    Saul: YAY! Nothing makes me happier than knowing that this post was a fun and informative read!

  3. Donna J | Apr 14, 2017
    It is very interesting.  Thanks.
  4. Mary Evans | Apr 12, 2017
    I always wondered what was in the lower levels of the main. Your handling system seems well organized and efficient. Thanks to all for what you do.
  5. Charleen | Apr 12, 2017
    We worked down the hall from MSS for a year and half as volunteers.  We got to know some of the hard working people there.  They are really nice! Thanks for a little more insight into what goes on in that department.
  6. Becky C | Apr 12, 2017
    Glad you liked it!  Thanks for commenting!
  7. Saul | Apr 12, 2017
    A fun read and full of cool information. Glad this popped up on my LinkedIn!

    Leave a comment