If you have ever wondered what lies behind the audio books that are delivered to your door, now is your chance to find out.
How we choose the books
Thousands of books are published every week in the UK alone so it's quite a skill to choose those that will bring most enjoyment to Calibre members. First, we analyse all the books that members are already borrowing which gives us an insight into members' tastes. We also consider suggestions from members. The Bookseller, a trade magazine, keeps us up to date on the latest books and we read reviews of new books in newspapers and other magazines. Finally we make a shortlist and borrow the books so that staff and others can read them and make a final decision. Every year we add at least 550 titles, about 3 books every two days, including books for children and young people.
Choosing the reader
The next stage is to identify the right reader for each book. We have a marvellous team of volunteer readers, all professionals such as actors or broadcasters. It's important to get the right voice for the book - should it be a woman or a man? Are there any regional accents to convey? Who can bring out the best in a children's story, a humorous book or a thriller? We know our readers well and, to judge from the fan mail readers get, we make the right choice more often than not.
Recording Calibre Books
The readers record new books at home using equipment we supply. But as the readers can work at their own speed, they don't tire (as they would in a studio) and the recordings always sound fresh and lively.
Click here to listen to some sample Calibre recordings.
In addition to our own recordings we also buy some commercially-recorded audio books.
Click here if you are a voice professional and would like to record books for us.
Getting the books to your door
Once the recording is finished it is checked for quality at our offices then the master version is copied and securely stored. We make library copies on MP3 disk, then the book is listed in our library catalogue and goes onto the shelves ready to go to members.
When members join they tell us what kinds of books they like reading, say detective stories, and we record that information on our computer along with a list of all the books they have read (so that we don't send the same book twice). When a cassette book is returned to our offices it is checked and rewound (checking MP3 disks is much easier!) then we log it on the computer to record its return. The computer 'knows' if another member is waiting for a book of that type and automatically generates an address label for that member. So, many books go out on the same day they are returned without even touching the library shelves. Books that are not wanted immediately are shelved in number order until a member requests them.
The Royal Mail van arrives daily to deliver and collect several huge containers of USB and disk wallets and cassette boxes and the books are finally on their way to members.
We despatch over 1,750 audio books a day to members, one every 18 seconds of the working day. About the same number are returned every day - and many of them go out to a waiting member on the same day without even touching the library shelves.
Looking after members
At the other end of our building, our Membership Services team deals with applications from new members, logs their details on our computer and makes sure they can get the best out of our service. They are on hand to deal with members' enquiries and can also help members to set up their reading lists. With almost 20,000 members using our free service, this is quite a task!
Who works here?
You might think we have a staff of hundreds to deal with this complex and busy operation. In fact we have only 50 staff, including the editorial and recording team, sound recording engineers, customer services staff, IT specialists, managers and administrative staff. Their jobs would be impossible without our state of the art library computer and a small army of wonderful volunteers - currently just over 100 of them - who put in hours of work helping to run our service.
Click here if you would like to volunteer to work with Calibre.
To find out how you can support our service, visit the 'Support Us' pages.