Library Donations Workflow revisited

I work at a small library where I have had the privilege of being the interim director for the last 8 months. Which means that I have had the opportunity to modify some of the existing workflows.

One of these “modifications” was of the book donation workflow which I altered in conjunction with the cataloging librarian.

Originally we would take in books from different sources and determine if the books should be added to our collection. If not then they would be put out on a cart at the front of the library as a book sale for a few weeks every so often. These books would all be priced at .50

Some of these books would be snatched up very quickly, while others would languish and eventually we would box them up and send them to Better World Books  (BWB) Which is a pretty good workflow in the sense that we make a little money to go towards purchasing other books for our collection, and we don’t have to recycle the ones that are leftover.

As of last semester we had been making a little bit of money from the in house sale, but not very much as you might imagine. BWB had not sold enough of our books yet to reach the threshold at which they would write us a check. I believe this is because our in house users were buying all the books that could have been sold by BWB more easily.

I had prior experience selling my own books through Amazon, and I thought it was a relatively easy process so I suggested that we try doing it ourselves on a trial basis. The new workflow looks like this

  1. Books Donated (but not added to our collection) or Discarded
  2. Books Checked by students against Amazon’s Database to see if they are being sold for more than $5
  3. If they were then they would go in a pile to be entered into our Seller Account’s inventory
    1. I only list a book if it is not being sold for less than $5
    2. After I enter a number of books on a given day I will go through the inventory and make sure that our books are priced at least .10 less than anyone else’s
    3. If the book falls below $3 I’ll remove the listing and send it to the in house book sale
  4. Otherwise they would go straight into the book sale and then on to BWB as before

That is the basic workflow and the one that I worked on with the Cataloging librarian. It is pretty straight forward and easy to follow.

I started entering books in to Amazon and quickly discovered that the information on the slips in the books from students (that I had asked for) wasn’t actually useful. I had asked them to print on an old catalog card the lowest price, the general condition of the book, the seller’s rank, and I had them color code it by the range it was in the Amazon Seller’s index (by the Millions).

I pretty quickly found out that this information wasn’t actually useful when trying to put the books up for sale. I more often than not couldn’t find the same entry the student was referencing, and the seller’s index wasn’t providing a terribly good indicator of whether it would be sold. It turned out to be much easier to put everything online and take books off if they haven’t sold within a predetermined amount of time. So instead I was able to figure out which chunk of code in the URL was persistent and started having them write that down.

Pretty soon after I started putting books up for sale we actually sold the first book. This was exciting because I could actually show my coworkers that we were receiving a good price for the book (more than .50) and that there were people out there who wanted these books. I realized that we needed to receive the money so I had to figure out where the money could go, and then be transferred back to us. We don’t have our own checking account, and that is the only way that Amazon will send you money (trust me I have checked). Campus finance was able to work with us and we were able to have Amazon send the money to them, and then we would send Finance a monthly email detailing how much money should be sent to which account (postal fees, revolving collection fund). As long as we don’t mind the wait then this setup works out fine.

For the future:

Now that I have a good setup for how to wrap the books up to be shipped I need to transfer that responsibility to a student. I’ll consult with the cataloging librarian and determine which of the students



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