One of the few job hazards of being a public librarian is that everyone asks you why a library has a certain policy or rule. Often it is in areas I can readily explain like Internet filtering, privacy, weeding, etc. However, there have been a few times, I am absolutely flabbergasted on a policy or rule.
A civilian friend of mine shared this story about a recent trip to a local library in her new town. Her child was all excited that this new library had Dora the Explorer videos. The video was checked out for three days per the circulation policy. As my friend was headed out of town, they renewed a second time over the phone. No big deal. Upon returning, they went to the library and returned the items, save for the Dora video which they wanted to renew again. No dice. The circulation policy is limited to 1 renewal. My friend suggested that they simply return it and then recheck it out. Again the library said no. (“That wouldn’t be fair.”) My friend pressed on. Was someone waiting to check it out? No. That is just the rule. Too bad for you. Friend left with screaming child that was denied a Dora movie and friend left with a bad taste for libraries. Frankly, I don’t blame her.
For the life of me, I cannot figure out what this library was thinking. Isn’t one of our objectives to get people to actually USE the resources of the library? Library circulation policies and procedures are the first step in creating a good customer service experience. The above scenario is a textbook example of poor service. Even if the staff involved were pleasant and helpful otherwise, this is absolutely negated by the idiotic policy in place. Customer service is more than “being nice”. It is a philosophy of service that is about helping the customer get what they need/want.
Circulation policies are now my new litmus test of a library. Are they designed with the customer in mind or are they to help the staff? I started reading a bunch of circ policies and can tell you it seems like many libraries are embracing punitive, complicated circulation policies. To what end? If your library is about having people actually use the resources, make sure they actually can.
Originally published at http://www.practicallibrarian.net/customer-service-starts-in-circulation/ on 7/30/2013.
Updated 11/7/2014 MK