Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Library Book Delivery Backlog Tops 86,000 Volumes

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Library Book Delivery Backlog Tops 86,000 Volumes

Article excerpt

Michael McCue started his workday on a recent morning in an unusual way: He packed his Honda Civic with a dozen or so boxes of novels, classics and non-fiction hardcover books and ferried them to libraries across eastern Bergen County.

McCue's job description as director of the Teaneck Public Library does not include book delivery. But he and other library officials across the state are scrambling to make the best of a situation that has halted deliveries of tens of thousands of books and other materials among New Jersey libraries.

Since Jan. 1, when the state-funded nonprofit that handles interlibrary loans brought on a new delivery contractor, library patrons seeking books, CDs and DVDs that they can't find at their local branches have been stymied by a backlog that now tops 86,000 volumes in Bergen, Essex, Hudson and Passaic counties, and even more statewide. The nonprofit LibraryLinkNJ, which receives about $1.8 million in state funds per year, described the situation as "catastrophic" in an update on its website.

The Bergen County Cooperative Library System, or BCCLS, which typically handles more than 4,300 interlibrary loans per day among 76 North Jersey libraries, has indefinitely suspended the service while it deals with the backlog. Libraries and library systems across the state have done likewise, disappointing fiction lovers, frustrating students and throwing book clubs into disarray.

"Several times a day, we all stand around and say, 'I can't believe this is happening,'" said Ellen O'Keefe, director of the Glen Rock Public Library. "This has been working so well for so long; we have never experienced this kind of debacle."

The backlog began after LibraryLink dumped TForce Final Mile, the Dallas-based company that had handled library deliveries for years, in favor of a competitor, Los Angeles-based Expak Logistics. Expak's subcontractor withdrew from the contract at the last minute, according to the LibraryLinkNJ website, and the company was ill-equipped to handle the delivery of thousands of books among New Jersey libraries.

Now, LibraryLinkNJ, which is supposed to pay the company about $900,000 a year for deliveries, is exploring ways to sever the contract and get its money back, said Kathy Schalk-Greene, executive director of LibraryLinkNJ.

In the meantime, it's the library patrons who suffer, as the bestsellers and audiobooks and Oscar-nominated movie DVDs are stuck somewhere in limbo.

Still, Schalk-Greene defended the decision to switch vendors.

"They have experience in the specific area of library delivery," she said of Expak. "We did check references."

She declined to release the contract with Expak or other documents related to the bidding process last year, during which TForce Final Mile, Expak and three other companies vied for the job. The LibraryLinkNJ board will meet on Monday, Feb. 5, to decide whether to make the documents public, Schalk-Greene said. …

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