LSJ Editors' Blog: October 2006

24 October 2006

A fines debate

A recent post on Mark Hurst's This is Broken blog has touched off an interesting debate. Mark complains that he was not notified by the Denver Public Library until 10 days after his books were overdue: "Why is the notice sent so long after the fact? Clearly the focus of the system is to extract fines and not the return of their material."

Clearly there is no consensus in the library world about how this touchy subject is handled. Or rather, the issue is often dismissed by librarians as unimportant. Unfortunately it is exactly the sort of small thing that causes big aggravation to the public and, in my opinion, someone from the for-profit world like Mark is absolutely right to scoff at such disregard for customer service.

GreatWesternDragon says:
We assume that you're responsible enough to bring the items back without needing to receive a mailed overdue notice. You're given a receipt when you get your books or the books are stamped. Do you need a past due notice to pay your light bill? Then you shouldn't need a past due notice to bring your items back.

The point is, if you received an overdue notice, the chances are that YOU are the one who's screwed up. You shouldn't need the library to send you a notice that your books are late. You should be responsible enough to bring them back on time.

CJ says:

I've been running public libraries for over 20 years. Trust me, income from fines is barely a drop in the bucket when it comes to operating revenue. My budget this year is 5 million dollars. About 80,000 of that is fines, and 25,000 copy machines. Most of it comes from various taxes.

And did you not receive a date due slip when you checked out your books? Do you not have an obligation to return those books without the library having to remind you?

PLUS, your local library surely has a web accessible catalog. You can log in there with your library card number very easily at any time to see a list of your current checkouts and their due dates, your current hold list and the status of each item, and how much you owe on your library account and why.

Be responsible for yourself, why don't you?

Frankly, I find it hard to believe someone with an attitude towards their (taxpaying) patrons has been allowed to run public libraires for so long!

GreatWesternDragon chimes back in with:
There were overdue fines many years before e-mail and people managed to stumble along then. My suggestion is, if you're having that much trouble keeping track of all of those materials, then you shouldn't check out that many materials....Those items don't belong to you, they belong to the library and everything is 100% free as long as you abide by the rules. There's no more moral high ground here requesting the timely return of materials.
So...just because we have new technologies to make your life easier doesnt mean we are under obligation to use them.

And, finally, Memnon (an apparent non-librarian, I should note) takes things up a notch with:
"Gee, let me use the library, but don't expect me to be resposible at all for using it correctly... and how DARE you charge me a tiny fee if I don't pay attention and get what I took out back in time"...Grow the hell up!!!
Now contrast this with some comments from patrons who really do appreciate a timely notice.

Hatchibombotar says:
I greatly value the one-day-before email notices that the Colorado Springs public library sends...I often have dozens of books and videos checked out from my public library for myself and my son. Given that the library's computers are much more capable of keeping track of what I have out and when it is due, why shouldn't they send me an email a day or two in advance? Do you want the stuff back on time, or do you want to feel morally superior to your patrons?
Lisa says:
I receive email notices from the Boulder Public Library 3 days before the book is due. I very much appreciate the notices.
And Migranium says:

My local public library system sends an email notice a few days before an item is due. I'll bet this automated customer-centric feature costs them very little. I certainly appreciate it!
I'm with the latter three on this one, obviously. It's nice to receive emailed notices on or before the day your books are due. It's good customer service. It's good PR.

Regular readers will know that I've had a similar complaint in the past about my local public, but I'm happy to say the BECPL has seen the light--they have recently started sending out notices BEFORE books are due, not three weeks after. Thanks to whatever enlightened soul got that policy changed!

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23 October 2006

Open Past Initiative

Richard K. Johnson of SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) has deposited an article entitled The Open Past Initiative: A Discussion Paper in the E-LIS (E-prints in Library and Information Science) database, which proposes a new cooperative initiative to "digitize and disseminate the back-runs of scholarly journals." Johnson sees an opporunity for librarians and publishers to work together for mutual benefit:

This [current] situation benefits no one. Library investments in materials go underutilized, publisher assets lie unproductive, researcher access remains limited, and author research impact atrophies. Providing free electronic access to these valuable research resources would therefore benefit all the stakeholders in the journal publishing process....The Open Past Initiative would provide an exchange forum that would help match printed journal backfiles requiring retrospective digital conversion with academic libraries willing to support the conversion and online availability of the journal’s retrospective content.

Johnson puts the total cost of converting the backfiles of the average journal at $27,195.

Kudos to SPARC for taking on this noble cause! Obviously the key to making it work will be in finding incentives for individual libraries to make such an expenditure, but I hope SPARC can do it.
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International School Library Day 2006

Did you know today, 23 October 2006, is International School Library Day? Today is the day to promote your school library and increase awareness of its contribution to the school and the community.

If you need ideas, here are some examples of what libraries around the world are doing to celebrate. Or if you already have something planned you can submit your own event or activity to the list.
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15 October 2006

Michael Giarlo from the Access 2006 conference

Michael Giarlo, recent MLIS graduate of Rutgers SCILS, is blogging at the Access 2006 conference in Ottawa.

Here's an excerpt from a recent post:
Day one of the Access 2006 conference is winding down. Two groups of hackers (by trade or in spirit) gathered earlier today at Hackfest and Ad Hockfest, determined to work on a select few of the excellent project suggestions. The experience was entirely new to me, but not uncomfortably so. I was in a group (with pbinkley, ksclarke, tholbroo, and BigD) that worked on a Scriptaculous- and Cocoon-powered METS editor, a project similar to one I may be working on at Princeton. The most rewarding aspect, though, was meeting fellow library technologists and hearing about the interesting, and sometimes interestingly uninteresting :), projects they're working on.

I wound up skipping the opening reception tonight because of how crappy I felt, and instead found a cool Irish pub--the Aulde Dubliner Pour House--a couple blocks away from my hotel. It was exactly how I would have pictured an Irish pub in Canada. Hockey was on every television; the Tragically Hip was playing loudly; and folks were quick to offer a friendly “"Cheers!" ” It was quite relaxing, thanks in some part to the Kilkenny Cream Ale...All in all, a good beginning to the conference in spite of my malaise. I'’m looking forward to reading other folks'’ accounts of their Access 2006 experiences over at Planet Access.

Michael recently published a paper in LSJ entitled The role of skepticism in human-information behavior: a cognitive-affective analysis. He is currently a digital library developer at the Harvey S. Firestone Memorial Library at Princeton University, developing a digital repository and creating web-authoring tools for digital collection-building.
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10 October 2006

LSJ September Poll results

Each month we will have a new poll question on an issue raised in the previous month's issue of LSJ or on any topic of current concern.

The September Poll asked What do you call visitors to the library? The results:

Patrons: 57.11% (261/457)
Users: 21.88% (100/457)
Customers: 9.85% (45/457)
Clients: 5.47% (25/457)
Readers: 4.81% (22/457)
Other: 0.88% (4/457)

Clearly our readers prefer "patrons," with "users" a not-too-distant second. "Customers" came in with slightly less than 10% support. On the discussion board, "guest" was offered as another alternative by one reader, and others spoke out against the commercial/corporate feel of "customers" and "clients".

Our October poll ties in with two papers in the September issue by David Brian Holt and Lana Gottschalk:

Internet filtering in libraries is...

a good idea. Filters are well worth any ethical issues they raise.

sometimes a good idea. If used wisely, they serve a purpose.

up to the local community. Filter use should reflect local values.

never a good idea. They are against everything librarians stand for.

an overblown issue. Librarians spend too much time on these minor issues.

Please do visit us and vote if you have not yet done so!
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