17 thoughts on “this is broken: public library notice

  1. At my public library in NC they send out overdue notices 3 days after the fines begin to accrue. It used to be that there was a 3 day grace period for fines, which makes some (poor) sense to hold the notice and send it on the first day that fines accrue. However, when the grace period was done away with, the notification never was changed to keep up with the new policies. To their credit, I’ve received a response from their director saying they’re convening a small group to look at policies, and will work on this along with other issues.

  2. It’s practice here. :( I just spent 30 mins with one of the people in charge discussing it. Find me at IL next week, if you’re going, and we’ll chat.

  3. Oy, check out the comment from “GreatWesternDragon” on that thread: he/she is a librarian, lecturing the poster on why he should be more responsible.

    Can’t tell you how much I hate crap like that from librarians. I tried to represent for the rest of us (I’m “hatchibombotar” in the comments there).

    I suppose there is the serious problem of ILSes that simply won’t cooperate and send the emails properly. But that is another story…

  4. I suspect this is a cost issue. My library’s system (different from Denver) doesn’t have any way to distinguish between email and mail notification. Many patrons return books after just a couple of days overdue. So, by the time a patron gets mail notification they could have already returned the books and the library wasted money on paper/time/postage etc. Since we went to automated phone notification we bumped the wait period down to 3 days. We’re also hoping to add pre-notification via email but it’s not supported in our current software version so we’re going to have to get custom programming to implement that feature.

  5. Like the previous commenter, our ILS cannot distinguish between email and print notices. Since we don’t want to send out print notices immediately, this means that the email notices have to wait as well. Currently, our first notice is sent after 4 days.

    We do, however, have a phone system that will call people the next day if they choose to receive notification that way. We are also in the midst of creating a hack to break the link between print and email notices so that we can send email notices out faster.

    I will admit to not having much sympathy for this type of complaint, however. It’s called responsibility… unfortunately, it seems that we can’t ask people to be responsible at the moment – but I won’t start on that rant.

  6. My library sends a warning the day before and a final notice the day after. If you forget, well, tough bikkies, wear the fine. I didn’t check my email for a while, forgot about the book (my partner was reading it) and accrued nearly enough fines to buy the damnable thing. My responsibility, my problem. If it is overdue for a significant period without contact, you get billed for the book.

    If someone else is waiting for it and you can’t be bothered checking your due dates, they get inconvenienced – fines and whatnot are just a way to try and get patrons to respect other patrons.

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  8. I don’t think the system I work for sends out notices until at least a week after they are due. We don’t have e-mail or phone notifications. Maybe that will change when we get our new ILS system.

  9. This just seems like a situation, to me, where the software does something that is less than optimal and because we can’t fix it, we find ways to justify that it’s okay. I mean, if we were really trying to help the patron return their materials and not incur fines, we’d send a reminder early-ish. Since there’s almost no cost associated with sending out an email (as opposed to a letter, for example) this seems like the courteous thing to do.

    What if someone wants the book? Well we can get the software to reflect that as well. I know I’d be more comfortable with the idea of fines if there was some way to have fines only for books that has been requested and not returned, but that’s crazy moon language in this profession and where I live the libraries don’t have fines anyhow, none of them. I’m sure there are situations where someone looks in the OPAC or on the shelf and doesn’t see the book they want and walks right out of the library, but I bet they’re in the minority. If someone needs or wants a book, that’s also something that our OPACs can handle and balance our overdue books with patron desires of availability.

    It just seems to me that we pawn off too much responsibility for library policy and procedure on what our OPACs can and can’t do. I’m not saying that everyone here who has an OPAC with weird features is personally responsible for all its foibles, just that we need to be mindful that we are, in some cases, letting vendor decisions influence or patron offerings.

  10. I think Jessamyn is right on the money. Why do so many library people act like battered wives when it comes to the ILS? If the system doesn’t do something that patrons want, the very last thing any of us should be doing is making lame excuses for the arbitrary, stupid choices ILS vendors have made. The behavior of the system should be modified to suit our customers, not the other way around. That’s no reason to expect that the system can do everything you might ever want it to do, but I mean come on, it’s been 10+ years since email became a cornerstone of peoples’ lives; there’s no reasonable excuse at this point.

    (Of course our ILS doesn’t send out email reminder notices — we had to write it ourselves. Sadly the “legacy” system we moved off of last year has had this feature for 6 years now.)

  11. You can catch a great video of Seth Godin discussing the “This is broken” concept over at Google video. (This was a talk he gave for the 2006
    GoodExperienceLive conference.) Here’s a bit of what he had to say, but I highly recommend the whole video. It’s as funny as it is insightful.

    What does it mean to be broken? If I think it’s broken, it’s broken. You get to say the same thing. If you think it’s broken, it’s broken. Now the person who made it might not care if you think it’s broken. And that’s the incredible stupidity of the comments section of This is Broken which is no matter how broken something is, someone will post a note saying, ‘I don’t think it’s broken, and here’s why.’ And I don’t care if you don’t think it’s broken. If I think it’s broken, it’s broken.

  12. I don’t know, bitching about $2.50, I don’t have a lot of sympathy. Why can’t people just return their books? If this woman is asvvy enough to post to a blog she is savvy enough to log in to the OPAC and check the status of her account. We were just discussing this in my Needs Analysis class. When does the patron have to take some responsibility after all?

  13. Most places I know of send a courtesy notice that the item/material will be late within two days.
    When it is overdue, they will notify you via email once and that’s it.

    Sometimes if the person does not have email we send a courtesy notice, but if the person complains we tell them that it’s a courtesy notice, not a service.

    Often times I’ll refer them to http://www.libraryelf.com , but not all libraries use dynix products. The Innovative Millenium solution is getting extremely popular, but has these huge limitations depending on the level they buy. Most buy base package, but other’s I’ve seen go all out with the gold.

  14. Checked the library elf – looks great! Except, of course, we’re not listed.

    My city library’s been doing automated calling for a couple of years… after about a week or more over due.

    Of course, since the system always seems to call just after school…. guess who “gets” the messages?

    They finally started sending out email notices… about a week over due again (after promising it for several years). However, its erratic – I often don’t get anything at all, and I’m wondering if they’ve substituted email for the voice calls.

    It all burns me up, because even the kids books are $.25 a day, the most expensive library system I’ve had the misfortune to live with. They wanted to start charging $1 per electronic media too (just for BORROWING! They already do $1/day for lates), but I guess too many complaints nixed that.

    And they don’t seem to have a maximum fine either, so when they FINALLY agreed to put a couple of books on the lost list… between the fines, replacement cost, assorted charges… a couple of Scholastic books worth $10 ended up being $100+.

    They recently lowered the “you’re cut off from borrowing” limit to $10… which is okay… but now send they send the fees out to collection agencies… a month after the single automated late phone call, and if you’ve gotten the notice in the mail, you already have to pay the “processing fee”. I was furious when I got that piece of mail.

    We’ve virtually stopped using the “public” library that my taxes are going to. We can’t afford to use the “free” library – its cheaper to go to Blockbuster now that they’ve “done away” with overdue fees. Or at least extended the grace period by a couple of weeks.

    Whew. Sorry for the vent!

  15. When I lived in Ann Arbor I was a heavy user of the Ann Arbor District Library, and they sent courtesy emails the day before an item was due that included the individual titles *and* whether or not each items was renewable (didn’t have a hold placed on them by someone else). With the ability to renew online it was all so convenient. I like to think I’d be responsible and have everything back on time anyway, but these notices sure were nice, especially when I had lots out, all with different due dates. Not sure what system they had…

  16. Oh, and Ann Arbor had also made the decision, for better or worse, to only use email for these courtesy notices. So if you had no email you had to rely on the print receipt you got at point of check out, or going online to view your account. It seemed to go over fine.

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