Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Libraries look for magic number

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Johnny Simon⁄Special to The Gazette
Library workers Eric Carzon (right) and Mary Ellen Icaza chat in Gaithersburg while packing up audio copies of the Harry Potter finale.
While thousands of Montgomery County residents purchased copies of ‘‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” Friday night, many others chose to wait until Saturday morning, when they could get it for free.

Surrounded by dozens of boxes, books, tapes and CDs, 20 Montgomery County librarians and library assistants worked arduously at the library system’s Gaithersburg warehouse Saturday morning to get the most popular book in the world to the county library’s patrons.

‘‘I can’t promise they’ll all be there when the libraries open,” Kathie Meizner, collection management chief for Montgomery County Public Libraries, said Saturday, ‘‘but we’re sure going to try.”

Branches across the county opened at 9 and 10 a.m. Saturday. In preparation for the rush, the county placed an unprecedented order: 446 copies of the book were ordered, which is more than any other book the library system has ever ordered for its 23 libraries.

The second most popular book in the county’s circulation is ‘‘The Da Vinci Code,” but since the popularity of that book grew over time, Meizner said, the initial purchase wasn’t that great.

Of the 446 copies, 276 will be used to fill holds placed by library patrons, and the remaining 170 are available in each library’s ‘‘Seven-day express” section, which highlights recent arrivals and best sellers in the libraries. As of Saturday, there were nearly 800 holds placed on the book, leaving 524 patrons to either scurry for one of the seven-day express copies or to wait until their name comes up on the hold list, which could take weeks.

‘‘We would love to put one in the hands of every person that wants one, but that’s impossible,” Meizner said.

The county ordinarily tries to purchase one book for every three or four people who have a hold in place, Meizner said.

For hours on Saturday morning, library employees sifted through the hundreds of books, pulling each out of the box, affixing them with the proper bar codes, then placing them in new boxes, labeled ‘‘Bethesda,” ‘‘Damascus,” or ‘‘Silver Spring.”

The number of each book or book on tape sent to each branch was dependent on the number of holds placed at that library, as well as the general size of the branch’s collection. The Gaithersburg branch received the most copies in the county, with 50, while Poolesville got only six copies.