Today I tried to place a hold on a book from my local public library but because I owe $11 in fees the system blocked me from proceeding. (The limit is $10) I can understand that there should be a block on being able to issue books when a borrower owes a certain amount of money but this block on placing holds seems an unnecessary barrier to me. After all I will have to pay the fees when I issue the books. There may be reasons for such a block which I don’t know about, but it is frustrating and just puts me off using the service.
It made me think about the learning commons that I manage and whether we can make any changes that will encourage more open access to the collections. We have been focusing on removing as many barriers as we can over the last few years. These are some of the things we have eliminated or reduced:
Blocks on being able to renew overdue items
Limit on number of books able to be borrowed (increased to 50… maybe we could have no limit)
Limits on number of renewals (need to bring items in to library after 3 renewals to be sighted, then can take out again)
Blocks on being able to place hold if have overdue items
Perhaps there are many more barriers that we can remove. I’m going to take another good look. For example the one I’ve been thinking about for a while is our “no ID card, no borrowing” rule, which regularly stops borrowing and is a bone of contention amongst the staff. Is enforcing this policy really necessary? Perhaps there are other ways of validating borrower identity.
I think some rules may still be needed to enable and enhance access for all library borrowers, but it is important to regularly question whether these rules are actually necessary.
When is the last time you reviewed your library’s policies with the view to enhancing access?