The life journey of a barcode

When a box of sparkling new books arrives at the Sydenham office of Book Discussion Scheme, not all staff view the arriving package with the full reverence it deserves!

One such person is our administrator Cherie Gordon, who, with a slight note of sarcasm in her voice (she deals with hundreds of incoming new books on a regular basis!) often quips: "Yippee, another lot to barcode". 

It's a 'cradle to grave' job for Cherie, as she is also responsible for repairing books that suffer wear and tear or a bit of maltreatment by 'recalcitrant' book group members! However, although she is a whizz with a glue brush and the book press, she is unable to work miracles on books that have come to grief at the hands of pets ...bottles of wine...or other such calamities!

In her heart of hearts, Cherie really does enjoy seeing the new titles - as well as replacement and additional copies of existing titles - delivered from our warehouse suppliers. 

So what exactly happens to a book to make it book-group ready? Here's a step by step illustrated explanation:

1. Barcode sticker

We have sheets of barcode stickers, each with unique numbers and black lines on them. Cherie selects the appropriate sticker and places it on the top right-handside of the back cover of each new book. 

A non-fiction book has a barcode starting with 'N'; fiction has a barcode starting with 'F'. The 6 figure code is unique to the book. The last 4 numbers are always 1796 and indicate that the books are from Book Discussion Scheme.

Common question:

Q. Why does the sticker cover up writing sometimes?

A. The placement of the sticker is consistent (ie. in the same place on each book in the scheme), to allow ease of scanning the books and to avoid confusion with the retail barcode preprinted on the books. Our despatch staff use a computerised inventory system to record the books that are going out to (and returning from) every book group. 


2. Cover me up, I'm naked!

Every book in the scheme is handled many, many times during its lifespan. To help keep the books robust and clean, every book is laminated in a special non-yellowing self-adhesive covering. Volunteers trim and cover every book. There are usually 3 separate pieces on each book; which makes the spine sturdy.    

When a book is ready to go out to book groups, it is scanned in as an item of  'stock'.

Ex-librarian Pat Norton volunteers some of her time during the week to cover incoming books to the Scheme. 


3. Voila! 

When you receive your parcel or bag of books, the consignment note (the printed sheet accompanying the books) lists all the barcodes of the books that have been scanned out to your group.

So barcodes make managing our book collection efficient and can help make your book-group life easier!

Q. Why do you recommend writing names by the barcodes?

A. We suggest writing the name of the recipient of a book by the barcode applicable to that book. That way, if there's any need to identify who had which book (or who still has an outstanding book), it's easy for you to do so. Our staff scan incoming books, so we know which books - if any - are still with your and your group.


One of our computerised barcode scanners, used for recording incoming and outgoing books.


 A sample of a consignment note that accompanies every book parcel. The barcodes of the books allocated to a group are listed on it.



As at 31 January 2019, we have 1026 titles in the scheme: 704 fiction and 322 non-fiction.

We have more than 53,000 books stored in our Christchurch office.



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The Book Discussion 
Scheme is a member of the Federation of Workers Educational Associations in Aotearoa New Zealand
BDS is a member of the Federation of Workers Educational Associations