Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Books are not Umbrellas

I hate it when I’m at work and there’s a downpour outside. It’s not because I wish I was outside jumping in puddles. It is due to the fact that some patrons like to use their library books as impromptu umbrellas and then drop them off at the ‘Returns Desk’ sopping wet and sticking together.

During one of our meetings, one of the numerous managers said that we cannot charge the patrons for the damage when it is raining. I honestly do not see why we can’t. If it was a sunny, dry day and a patron returns a book sopping wet, we are supposed to charge their account for the water damage. When it’s raining we are supposed to do nothing more than sigh and say, “oh these patrons.”

Do you patrons want another good tidbit of information when it comes to damaged books? If you ever happen to damage a book while it is in your possession, walk it into the library, go straight to the returns desk and hand it to someone and tell them that how sorry you are that the item got damaged during your checkout and ask them how much it would cost to fix it and mention that you’re willing to pay it right then and there. If the person working at the desk is like me, I would most likely be humbled by your remorsefulness and not inflict the cost of the book and processing fee on you. If you are completely selfish and uncaring at least put up a good front and act like you’re willing to pay for it, any gestures like pulling out your wallet out of your back-pocket or your checkbook from your purse will do. It can be such a hassle to pull a book from the book drop that is hanging by a thread and go through all the procedures to mark the book as damaged and charge the patron’s account and leave a note. Then when you try to check out you encounter a big fine amount and temporary memory loss kicks in and you don’t remember the book being damaged- “Maybe it was from the book drop with all the other books crushing it?”

Why go through all this unnecessary hassle? Yes, that black hole called the “Book-Drop” does end somewhere. When you drop late books they don’t magically travel back in time and not incur late fees and damaged books don’t come out like they came right off the printing press. Honesty pays off tenfold in life and the library is no exception. So if you want to hedge the risk of being charged with the price of a new book, tell the person working the circulation desk that you’re sorry and that you’re willing to pay for the damage book.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Possibly the Most Difficult Decision of the Day

Whenever I encounter “Library-virgins” it’s when they come to the circulation desk for the first time to register for a new card. This is a very simple procedure. The patron fills out a form asking for the most basic of information: first and last name, phone number, address, e-mail address, and their birth date, which is optional. After they fill this out they take it to me at the circulation desk where I enter it into the library computer system. I always start by asking if the prospective patron might have ever had a card with the specific library system before. You would think most would be able to remember if they’ve ever walked into a library to obtain a card but there are some very forgetful people out there and they aren’t necessarily long in the tooth. There are also a few patrons who try to get two or three cards each for a number of reasons.

I have come across a few patrons who try to get a new card because their other card has accumulated a hefty amount in fines. I’ve had someone with about $10 in fines try to obtain a new card in order to avoid paying it. Others try to get another card to spend more time on the library’s internet stations. I don’t know why they just don’t use their family members’ cards instead of trying to pull one on me. I find it very insulting and it makes you look bad when you stand there and lie to me about not ever having a library card, it’s such a trivial thing.

If the patron has never had a card I then ask them which library card they would like to get, there are only two choices: a wallet sized card or a keychain card. I know it’s not just me, but I really do feel like this is an easy decision to be able to make on the spot within at most 10 seconds. But this has really not been the case in my experience. First the patrons look at the cards as I hold one in each hand for them to see their options, their eyes narrow as if they are trying to do long division in their head. It’s as if I have been transported into the Matrix and I am Morpheus asking Neo to choose between the Red and Blue pill.

I really wouldn’t mind patrons taking the extra 30 seconds to decide which fate to choose, heck, I would even hum the Final Jeopardy tune, but at one of the library systems I work for, the software program won’t let me enter any of the patron’s information in until I scan the barcode of their new card. Chances are the patrons will lose whichever card they get or they forget it at home and end up having to use their driver’s license to check out books. I for one am partial to the wallet sized card. The keychain card tends to break off and patrons end up complaining to me about having to pay the $2 or $1, depends on which library system I’m working at, replacement card fee. Trust me; the monetary amount of services the library has to offer definitely exceeds any replacement card fee paid.