This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, June 26, 1996

June 26, 1996 - Raising ILL Fines

When one of our patrons asks for a book, we usually buy it. Sometimes we can't.

Many titles are no longer in print. Borrowing it from another library -- a process called "Interlibrary Loan" or ILL -- is the only way to get it. Sometimes an item is unusually expensive, or of little general interest. In that case, ILL is more cost- effective. (Even then, if such a book is requested several times by more than one person, we usually try to pick it up.)

Generally speaking, ILL transactions don't make up a huge percentage of our business -- less than 1% of all our circulations. Direct patron purchases, by contrast, account for roughly 12-15% of our purchases. But interlibrary loans take up far more staff time per title.

How come? First, we have to find out who owns it. Even then, the item isn't necessarily on the shelf at the library that does own it.

Second, once the lending library snags it, the item still has to travel through various courier routes around the country and state before it gets to us. We've gotten books from as far away as Alaska and Hawaii, and as close as the Arapahoe Library District.

Third, all along the way, there's a small but significant amount of paperwork necessary to track the request.

Fourth, then we loan the item to one of our patrons, which requires both additional processing, and a phone call to the patron.

Fifth, on occasion, we send out an overdue notice or two to get the item back. Sixth and finally, we have to return the item to the lending library, with our thanks.

On the one hand, this level of cooperation among all types of libraries -- academic libraries, public libraries, school libraries, even such special libraries as medical and art collections -- is very unusual in American government. Many people aren't even aware that it exists: you just ask for something, and before very long, we get it for you. In my opinion, Interlibrary Loan is a library success story.

On the other hand, there are lots of ways for this cooperation to go wrong. And lately, at the Douglas Public Library District, we've noticed that some of the items we get through Interlibrary Loan just aren't coming back on time. We get them to our patrons, but some of our patrons don't return them when they're supposed to.

Frankly, this hurts our library's reputation. Before very long, other libraries begin to be unwilling to loan things to us. This threatens the quality of the service for the rest of our patrons.

As a result, I'm taking advantage of one of the (few!) powers enjoyed by a library director. I'm raising our late fees for interlibrary loan materials, effective June 26, 1996.

The fines used to cost a nickel a day. From now on, they'll cost fifty cents a day. (Incidentally, our old nickel-a-day charge was the lowest in the metro area.)

I emphasize that if you return Interlibrary Loan materials when you're supposed to, the service is still free. (Well, USUALLY free. Sometimes the lending library charges us a small fee, which a very few of them do, but we pass on to the patron.) The late fees only apply if you don't get the books back to us by their due dates.

Frankly, I don't view this as a money-maker. I hope we don't make a dollar on it. But I hope it does help us get those books back on time.

The interlibrary loan system depends upon the thoughtfulness and courtesy of all parties. It's important to keep up our end of the bargain.

No comments:

Post a Comment