Know Thy Patronage

I just finished reading this article from the Muskogee Phoenix about ways in which local libraries deal with overdue materials. There are countless numbers of ways in which libraries attempt to get items returned…at all, let alone on time. Here’s an interesting snippet.(Sorry for the long quote)

“There are good reasons libraries in this area don’t charge fines for overdue books, according to Marilyn Hinshaw, executive director, Eastern Oklahoma District Library System.”

“You have to look at the demographics of a community,” she said.”

“When a good percentage are struggling to make it, the worst scenario is that a kid would have an overdue book, then we would have to communicate with the parent. A kid in that situation feels trapped. We do use a lot of diplomacy because our business is to help them.”

“Hinshaw said libraries have an important role in society and need to be mindful of the basic humanitarian values they represent.”

“In this part of Oklahoma, there is a significant amount of poverty,” she said. “We’re offering educational resources they need to lift themselves up. They may be looking for books about jobs or low-cost foods. The best approach is not to penalize them, but to politely say at the desk ‘You’ve got three to six books checked out that are several months overdue.’”

We’ve heard it time and time again. Don’t base your policies on what other libraries are doing. The make-up of the community will help define library policy. In this case, charging for overdue items will only hinder the library experience. In fact, I know of a few libraries in my county (Suffolk, Long Island) that don’t charge late fees at all (The Netflix approach) and they have a very low late returns.

Chrystie and I are delving into the process based approach section of the book and this article made me wonder about assessment more (assessment is teh first step in community building). Before setting up policies in libraries, taking a look at the make-up of the community will asisst in forging good relationships with patrons. Most patrons don’t mind paying overdue fines, but we also need to look at those communities who don’t have the means to do so. Assessment is key when trying to form relationships.

Also of interest, there is a new Pew study titled, Home Broadband Adoption in Rural America:

“Rural Americans are less likely to log on to the internet at home with high-speed internet connections than people living in other parts of the country. By the end of 2005, 24% of adult rural Americans went online at home with high-speed internet connections compared with 39% of adults in urban and suburban areas.”

Yet something else to take into consideration when assssing needs of patrons and deciding who to partner with to assist users in getting the most out of library services.

Lots to think about…