3. Day to day running of your library
Procedures for the daily management of a Queensland Public Library – part of the Manual for Rural Libraries Queensland (RLQ) libraries.
Table of contents:
- 3.1 Issue systems
- 3.2 Overdue books
- 3.2.1 "Barring" library members
- 3.3 Joining new library members
- 3.4 Membership records
- 3.5 Loan entitlements
- 3.6 Requests: how the system works
- 3.6.1 Requests for books in your library
- 3.6.2 Informing users
- 3.7 Dealing with your public
- 3.7.1 Complaints about content of children's materials
The library needs a record of who has items on loan and when they are due back.
Libraries operating the Aurora library management system should refer to Aurora Desktop tips & tricks for more information about day to day library procedures.
Maintain a schedule of daily, weekly and monthly procedures, along with a calendar of special events. Remember to keep all staff (relieving & casual staff) aware of all library procedures.
When a user has kept items past the date on which they were due back, you should usually allow a period of "grace" before contacting the borrower. Borrowers with email addresses listed in Aurora will receive a courtesy reminder notice three days before their loans are due to be returned. Most overdue items are returned fairly shortly after the due back date. However, if the item has not been returned after a reasonable period (usually 2 or 3 weeks after the date due), you should contact the borrower:
- (a) First Overdue: send an email or phone requesting the return of the items within a set period of time (e.g. one week), including a sentence to the effect that if the items have been lost, a charge for their replacement will be levied.
The charging and collection of fees for overdue items is at Council’s discretion. If the items are not returned within the period you have allowed (plus a further short period of grace), send an:
- (b) Account for the replacement value of the items, taken from the current average book price list issued by SLQ Public Library Development. (see Appendices).
Before sending any overdue notices or accounts look for the items on your library shelves. For this to be effective, shelf order should be checked regularly.
If, as a result of these steps, the user contacts you to report the item(s) returned, you may have to decide whether the user or your issue record is mistaken! This decision is obviously one for your discretion, but it is often better to give the user the benefit of the doubt unless you have very substantial grounds for believing otherwise (e.g., if the same user had previously insisted that overdue items had been returned). In the end, it is up to you! Please contact SLQ Public Library Development if you would like help with the wording of overdue notices.
For small libraries, you may find it better to chase overdue items over the phone, only mailing second notices or accounts. A record should be kept of these phone calls within your library management system.
While users have overdue items on loan from the library, you should not let them borrow more items. If you do, there will be little incentive for them to return the overdue items. Generally, prompt and consistent action on your part will minimise the problem of overdue or lost books.
If a user fails to return or pay for a lost or damaged item after all of the above procedures have been followed, you should return the loan from your library system, after making a note of the default in the users record. There is no point in keeping a loan record of irreparably lost books to people who have long since left the district.
Consider holding an amnesty during one month in the year to encourage the return of overdue items. Items can be returned without explanation if the user donates to a local charity.
If users fail to return or pay for items, you should exercise your right to refuse them the loan of items in future. "Barring" library users in this way can be difficult in a small community, but it is unfair on users who use the library responsibly if others are allowed to keep items indefinitely. If you bar a user, you will need to make a note on the user record of the date of the bar, the duration (if temporary) and the reason. Review borrowers after 5 years and delete their record.
Barring should be regarded as a last resort. Records of barred borrowers, particularly those who have left the area with library items, can be checked when new members join.
When new library users join the library, they should be registered online and given a membership card along with their PIN. New users should understand they are responsible for lost and damaged items, and produce identification verifying their address.
Parents or guardians are responsible for the supervision of their children’s usage of library materials, both in the library and while borrowed. All members need to abide by the Council's Internet Use Policy.
- New users are enrolled for a fixed period (usually 2 years) and their membership expiry date is noted on their user record in the automated system.
Enrolling a new library user is a good opportunity to promote your service. It is cheap and easy to produce bookmarks which look attractive and contain basic information about the library. These and other simple "give-aways" help to create a good impression with new users.
Do not forget that joining the library can be made into a very special event for children. Consider providing a simple "goodies" bag for the young user (include a colour-in sheet, a balloon, a bookmark and an explanatory leaflet about the library).
Membership records can be kept up-to-date in the following manner:
- The librarian checks the expiry date when routinely charging and discharging items. When the membership is due for renewal, the librarian asks the user if all contact details are correct, note any changes and then extends the registration period for another two years.
User records must be checked regularly (every 6 months will usually be adequate) and user records which have expired should be discarded. If you think these people will start to use the library again, you should still discard the record, since you can easily register them when they next visit. This method works very well once established, since your membership renewals will be spread evenly over the year. It is therefore particularly useful for larger libraries.
It is important that you discard all out-dated membership cards. Membership details should be a record of your current library users and can only be maintained as an up-to-date record if it is regularly weeded or renewed. The number of withdrawn memberships is recorded on the annual statistics form (see Appendices).
All users should be issued with their library cards so they can present it each time they visit the library and can access online resources from home. Remember that library membership records have personal information about your borrowers. Any request by another person for an address, telephone number or any other details, including library usage records, must always be refused as these records are confidential.
Twenty items per user should be allowed wherever possible, regardless of format with a 28 day loan period.
There is no need to differentiate between adult and junior borrowing entitlements; all members can be allowed the same number of items regardless of age. It is also desirable that all members have equal access to all categories of library material.
Your library is part of a large network. Your borrowers may require items that are not held in your library (see Section 6). You will also send items from your library to other libraries to satisfy their user requests.
3.6.1 Requests for items in your library
When you are asked for a particular item by a customer, always check your computer to see whether it is held in the RLQ network. Assist your user in placing a reserve on the title via the online catalogue to receive the first available copy. Users can then place their own reserves at anytime.
Whether books have been returned by other users or sent from another library, you need to inform your users that their requests have arrived. Ideally, you should phone or email saying the item is available. Trapped reserves that have not been collected within 2 weeks of notification need to be returned into circulation.
Most of the people using your library will be a pleasure to meet. However, as in all jobs involving public contact, users may occasionally be angry or aggrieved. It is important that you handle such situations effectively. Procedures dealing with difficult customers may be outlined in council policies or client service standards. Client service standards and policies are council documents, but assistance may be obtained from SLQ Public Library Development if required.
There are several golden rules:
- always remain polite
- never lose your temper
- keep your voice calm and under control.
Your exact response will obviously depend upon the complaint.
Sometimes it will be necessary to make careful notes, to check the information the complainant provides and to report back to the complainant later.
On other occasions, it may be possible to provide the information or explanation that the user needs straight away.
Whatever course of action is most appropriate, you should always take the complaint seriously, listen carefully and make every attempt to provide a satisfactory answer.
If a user (including a parent) complains about the content of a children’s item, avoid becoming involved in a debate about that particular item. Instead you should:
- listen to the complaint
- let the borrower express their viewpoint/anger. In many cases, the opportunity to express a viewpoint will help to diffuse the emotiveness of a complaint
- acknowledge that the borrower is angry or upset by the content of a particular book and explain that you appreciate the feedback from library users but that selection from the collection is the borrower's responsibility.
If the borrower is still dissatisfied, invite the borrower to fill out a feedback form.
Please contact SLQ Public Library Development for further information if you are uncomfortable with the book itself or any outcome of a complaint.