Local Library Policies

Over the past couple years our local library system has been under financial pressure, resulting in some changes, and maybe not all of them bad, but still frustrating. Hoping those of you reading today might offer some insight into your local library policies so I can decide whether to dig deeper or just live with it!

  • All branches closed on Friday
  • Cannot checkout any books if any unpaid fine
  • Cannot renew a checked out book more than 4 times
  • Fines only paid in cash/check

The Friday closing I get, definitely savings to close the office, though I wish they would leave one branch open. More than once I’ve wanted to go on a Friday and couldn’t. They’ve told me that the reason behind requiring all fines to be paid is to increase circulation, but I find fault with that argument. You can return all your books, owe $.10, and not be able to check out any books. I rarely carry cash and there is no ATM machine in the building. I would have no problem paying the merchant fee on top of the fines. This is supposed to happen eventually, but it’s not been funded yet that I can see.

The limit of 4 renewals – don’t know. They only let you renew if no one has a hold on it, but I can see that there should be a max, whether 4 or 14. This one annoyed me recently when I returned books and forgot one that I’d had for a while (about growing tomatoes) and actually remembered to bring cash with me, but I couldn’t renew the book, couldn’t pay the fine on it because it wouldn’t calculate until returned – leaving me the option of paying for the book plus a $10 fee (which I considered), or having them hold all the books I’d selected on a Thursday evening that I wanted for a rare Friday at at the beach.

So, I’m trying not to rant, yet I’m not sure those policies are all that customer friendly.

5 thoughts on “Local Library Policies

  1. Local library was under threat of closings, managed to avoid it (barely). There’s a renewal limit of 5 times, I don’t see any restrictions to cash/check only on fine payment or limitation on not being able to check books out if fines are owed.

    So, I see your point, seems like maybe they should stop allowing books to be checked out once you reach a certain level of fines owed, not just any fines, especially with the cash/check only and no ATM.

    However, also have to think that we’re supremely lucky to have a library to attend, so on the flip side, this isn’t such a hardship when you consider what is available to us. I’m still waiting for more electronic distribution from the library, my university has that (love that, can read thousands (probably more) of books from a different state on my laptop immediately) but not the public library.

    Your post made me consider supporting my library a little more, so thanks for that. Wouldn’t want to lose the privilege.


  2. Sometimes library policies, like any corporate policies for that matter, are difficult to explain. However, like both, they are meant to address local issues; only a representative body of the population [aka library board] can prioritize them. The “Closed Fridays” is unfortunately a sign of our times (even though personally I feel in a depression/recession it is the most critical asset to keep open). “Cannot checkout any books if any unpaid fine” of course is open to debate. There is the need to maintain order to eventual abuse of the system. I could also roll the dice and stop paying my electric bill and see what happens. However, me personally, I detest ‘library cops’ and hate to see failure to loan materials based on nominal fines. 50 cents? Let’s be realistic. Just the same I think once fines reach a certain threshold (an amount set by the board) then you have to play “bad cop.” It just has to be done. Give people an inch and they’ll see if they can push that inch to a yard, 2 yards, etc. Same thing with the renewal policy. By contrast “Fines only paid in cash/check” is also tough. Perhaps the library cannot afford a credit/debit card machine rental? Those companies take percentages of the transaction and if people try to charge 50 cents the library is now in a deficit with the transaction. (If you accept MC/Visa then you have to accept any transaction amount. It’s illegal (at least in NYS) to set a minimum charge amount.) So they may (I cannot speak for them) decide it’s not economically viable and therefore we can only do cash/check. I don’t know. It just seems plausible to me.

    It’s not my intention to defend policies of which I know nothing, but I would ask them outright the thought process behind them. Good question for the Reference Desk!


  3. Andy,

    I use the same library system that you do and the Friday thing kills me. I’m on the road M-Th a lot and lose reserved books because I can’t get to them on Friday. I’d rather see the library open an hour later each day and get 4 hours on Friday.

    In terms of $ they do nothing creative. How about a coffee bar in the Library? Even churches have figured out that this works. It adds revenue and gives people an incentive to come. How about an option to mail books to you home for a fee? They cut out free mail because it was expensive, I get that, but I’d pay a reasonable amount to have my books delivered.

    When I lost a book, the policy was that I had to wait 6 months to see if it turns up before they would let me pay for it. I had cash and wasn’t allowed to pay for the book. What!?!

    I’m happy to have a local library but having lived in the neighboring (and admitted larger) county, their library system is consistently better run. I have borrowing priviledges there too but since I live out of county I can’t reserve books.



    1. Trying to decide if I want to engage more or just live with it. Seems like a few small changes might generate some nice improvements, but I wonder how many of us share the view of the pain? Thinking to maybe hit up one of the local newspaper columnists, but figure I need to do homework on what is generally done first.


  4. So many libraries have gone the coffee bar route with much success. This story saddens me in that there are good virulent library users feeling frustrated by questionable polices. Plus there’s simple things that could be done for improvement that aren’t being addressed. 😦


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