Blog June 2013 – Day 19 – Fair to all

Was thinking today about some of the rules the library has. For example, users require their library card number to book our computers. Sometimes they don’t bring their card and we use discretion and other times we turn people away.

Made me think about other things like people not being able to borrow without their card. We do not allow people to use other ID, they must have the card physically on them to do so.

I sometimes wonder whether this is fair and reasonable as so many places, including my local DVD library lets me borrow based on my phone number and PIN.

Then on the other-hand……

Our conditions of use specify that the library card must be ‘Presented” to use the computer or to borrow items. Fair enough.

Then, if we didn’t require this, how many people would expect us to look up their membership information every time.  It might be a small number to start with, but at a guess I would say an ever growing proportion.  This process is not a quick and easy one, which got me thinking about implications.

Yes, it would be great for the people who had not brought their library card, but what about those people who had. The service we can then offer them could be severely impacted by this extra processing time. Queues and waiting time would increase, because some individuals were not abiding by the ‘agreed’ conditions of use. The problem being and I know this from long experience, that once someone gets away with something once, it doesn’t matter how vehemently you tell them that this is a once off only, there will be people that will try it again and again and again and again…….

I know it sounds harsh and maybe it is, but after thinking yet again about the implications of it, I agree yet again with the policy. Libraries are the great community equalisers and this, as in all things, we also need to be fair to all our library members.

However, I would be interested to hear of any public libraries that do allow users to borrow/use computers etc without their physical cards present. Does it work, does it add any extra pressure to your workflows, service to users?


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  1. In my previous life as a librarian working in the public library, we made a point to all customers that they will need to bring their membership cards when borrowing or using the computers, but then we realised there is a group of customers who can actually remember their membership card numbers, so instead of scanning in their card when they need to use the PC, they simply type it in….

  2. We have those people too, but where they run into trouble is when they forget their pin, or they want to print, because the print management system requires them to swipe their library card. We have temporary print cards for guests, but we have had a few regulars who we refuse to give them to any longer, because they never bring their card in. If they want to print, they have to bring their library card.

  3. In the academic library where I work we will accept Photo ID if the patron has forgotten their staff or student card.

  4. Does it take long to look up their record?

    • Michelle Noble on June 20, 2013 at 4:01 pm

    Great Post Michelle. It’s a simple thing but important and worth having a conversation about it. :o)

  5. Its important we do revisit the things we do, to make sure they are still achieving what was intended. Thanks for the comment and the encouragement.

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