General Etiquette > general

Mildly annoyed with the public library

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Even though the public transportation in my city is not to my liking (the bus stop is more than a mile from my house and there are are very few routes that actually go in a straight line) the public library system is fantastic. You can go online and browse the catalog and if you find something you like, you can reserve the book online. If it's located at another branch library, they can transfer it within a few days and notify you when it's ready to pick up. You can also renew your checked out books online and there's no limit to how many items you can check out. This is not true at all libraries; my old one across the country would only allow up to ten books at time.

Oh, also, the reference librarian is available online to chat any time during library hours if you need help with research. I love, love LOVE my public library and my life would definitely suck without it. The county I live in cut library funding last year (arrrrrrrrgggghhhhhh!!!!!)  >:( >:( >:( and due to public outcry (and several strongly worded letters to the county commission, plus A LOT of mrkitty and other people fund-raising, I might add) the county wisely re-considered and reverted back to original library hours. Anyway, I don't know if you can tell, but I really super love our library.

That's why I am not planning to say anything, but I was mildly annoyed with them this week.

I tried to log on the system to check out a particular book I want to read, and every time I tried, I kept getting the message that either my card number or password is invalid. I was able to check my account for some reason (don't ask me why) and saw that I had no fines, holds or late books on my account. So, like I've done in the past when there was some issue (one time the system claimed I had a book checked out beyond the due date when in fact I had returned it a week earlier, but they put a trace on it and found out they hadn't scanned it) I went online and sent a note inquiring about the issue. I received an auto reply informing me that someone from the library staff would look into it and contact me by Thursday. 

Okay, that's normal and in the past they have always followed up within a few days.

This time, Thursday came and went with nobody contacting me. So, I called the library and spoke to a staff member, who looked up my account and told me that it was a routine hold they put on accounts to ensure the contact information is current. She verified my address and phone number, and then removed the hold.

I have to tell you I was slightly vexed. I understand the need to verify account information, and I can even appreciate placing a hold on the account until it's corrected or verified. But couldn't they have included a line in the automated response email that says library patrons should not expect a call from a staff member in all cases, or to call the library if they don't hear from someone by X day? I mean, I could still be sitting here wondering what happened. Luckily I'm not very patient, so by Friday I called the library. Some people might not, though. I guess I should explain that I hate it when someone tells you they will follow up and they don't, or when you are told to expect follow-up and then find out that their policy is to do other than what is stated to the customer. If they want people to verify their account information, can't they just say that? I don't mind the account being put on hold, but at least some explanation would be appreciated; instead, I was on tenterhooks wondering what was up? In situations like that I feel like I'm being jerked around - even though in this case I think it's meant to force the patron to call in; still, I don't like that. I feel like it's treating patrons like children. I don't know if I'm being at all clear.
 I wonder if I should say something to the head librarian? Or do you think that would be way to special snowflakey?

I just get irritated when there are communication holes, which is what I think this is.

Harriet Jones:
Our library does that too -- put a hold on your account without any explanation. It's definitely annoying

I'd definitely be annoyed if I were you. The library where I work wouldn't put a block on your record for that. They just put in a note so a staff member will verify your info the next time you deal with them. Sometimes they don't see the note, or the patron might not actually deal with a staff member for quite awhile, but there's really no harm in us having the wrong information in the vast majority of cases.

In specific cases where having the wrong information might be a real problem, then a staff member might manually put in a full block with an explanatory note. That mostly comes down to some sort of misuse of the card, though, never just a routine check on address, email and such.

I work in a public library so I do have some perspective on this.

Don't forget that there are thousands of you and probably only about 10 of them.  If they generally return your calls within the time they say they will do so, that's great but it is possible that there were people out on Thursday or some program or someone simply forgot. Human error, etc.

Most ILSes (Integrated Library Systems) do have the function that patrons' card expire after a certain amount of time or that card info needs to be checked and verified every 3 or so years.  It is set up to be automatic.  Some ILSes may actually have the functionality to note that so that the patron can see why they are temporarily blocked or to only put in the block when a patron tries to check out an item.  Your county's system doesn't seem to have that or they haven't set it up to do so.

Frankly, I wouldn't bother anyone there about this issue--it won't come up for another 3-5 years, probably, unless they have their system set up to do a check more frequently.

If you do want to talk to the Director, I would couch it in a way that will be helpful.  NOT "they didn't call me back when they said they would," which will just get people in trouble but a general, "Isn't there a better way to let people know why they are blocked?"

Thanks for being an advocate for your library.

Tea Drinker:
The library where I used to live now requires cards to be renewed every three years. But there are signs saying so at the checkout desks, and I think I got a warning online that I would need to renew my card within the next month, when I went to either reserve or renew a book online. I didn't go merrily about my business, including borrowing and returning books, without notification.

So the letter I'd write would be something like "Dear Library Director, As a supporter of the library who makes a point of returning her books on time [assuming you do], I was disturbed to find that an unexplained hold had been placed on my account. I understand that the library wants to verify information every few years, but to avoid upsetting your patrons, please change the automatic message to say something like 'You will need to renew your card before you can use it again' and explain what the patron needs to do."

Yes, the OP isn't going to have that problem again for a few years. But most of the library patrons will run into it, because it will affect any regular library user who keeps the same address for more than a couple of years.


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