Children’s Plus Inc., one of the fastest-growing book distributors in the country, has supplied children’s pre-bound library books to libraries throughout North America and Europe since 1979. Known for its commitment to excellent quality and outstanding customer service, the company works diligently to be a full-service resource for its customers by offering thousands of titles from major publishers, as well as many small, independent presses. The company serves about 15,000 school libraries and about 2,600 public libraries.
When libraries order new books, they have to enter those books into their catalogs. While it sounds simple, it’s actually an intricate process that book distributors oversee during each order. Every title requires multiple levels of information for the computer catalog, including the title, author, genre, reading level and subject headings. Like many distributors its size, Children’s Plus would outsource cataloging and processing because the national, government-set machine readable cataloging (MARC) standards are complex. The company found, however, that outsourcing had a significant price tag, so Children’s Plus needed a cost-effective solution that would give the company better control over the ordering process.
alligatortek’s custom solution not only allows Children’s Plus to create MARC records, but also makes the company more appealing to a wider range of libraries by having customizable data fields within those records. Its built-in flexibility allows the program to keep up with evolving customer preferences, while still integrating with the current title database at Children’s Plus. This solution gives the company control over each order from start to finish.
Few companies handle both the order process and the MARC records, so the teams had limited examples of how to streamline these functions. alligatortek and Children’s Plus employees spent many hours researching the records and finding a few samples to guide them.
“Even though it’s an essential part of each order, cataloging and processing is too complex for most companies our size to manage internally,” says Michael Beechin, vice president of operations at Children’s Plus. “Designing these applications and building an internal department to take over this function helps us manage operating costs more effectively while increasing our capabilities. We’re able to prepare cataloging and processing for virtually all scenarios, from basic to extremely elaborate library systems. It’s a remarkable goal to achieve.”
The cataloging and processing system already has helped to significantly reduce the overhead costs for orders. The system continues to evolve as Children’s Plus learns what functions and features are most important for its clients, which alligatortek then supports with coding adjustments.
“By bringing our cataloging and processing in-house, we have a better understanding of what our customers need for their systems,” Beechin says. “Now, our customer service staff is able to answer questions and sort out complicated issues without needing to rely on a third-party vendor.”