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Borrowing changes ahead at library

Posted by Geeky Swedes on September 29th, 2009

Starting on October 15th, The Seattle Public Library is changing its borrowing policy and adding/changing fines and fees to some items.

The number of items you can check out will drop from 100 to 50. In order to check out anymore books you must not have more than 50 library items. The number of holds is also dropping to 25. “Cardholders won’t lose unfilled holds, but won’t be able to place more holds until the total is below 25,” according to the bookmark being handed out. If you want to borrow a book from a different library system, it will cost five dollars. This fee does not apply to items owned by SPL. Items designated for kids twelve and under will start accruing late fees. Daily fines will be fifteen cents per day per item.

The SPL board of trustees revised their policy (.pdf) to “address the high demand for limited library books and other items during tough
economic times, continue to provide quality service with a constrained budget, maximize the circulation of books and other items for all customers and bring borrowing limits and fees in line with other library systems.”

Last month the entire library system took a week-long furlough to help with budget cuts. (Thanks Peggy for the tip!)

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29 reader comments so far ↓

  • 1 Name // Sep 29, 2009 at 6:54 pm

    All sounds perfectly reasonable to me.

  • 2 Sherbet99 // Sep 29, 2009 at 7:39 pm

    The only change that is problematic for me is that the hold limit is <25. Unless I'm one of the first in line to place a hold, the wait is often months for popular books/CDs/movies, so that twenty-five fills up very quickly.

    Still, I don't have the money to purchase them myself, so I really can't complain.

  • 3 Randolph // Sep 29, 2009 at 7:45 pm

    $5/book for inter-library loans? That's very hard on people like writers and artists who do research and don't have an academic affiliation. This is a fee imposed on a politically weak and not particularly well-to-do group which, nonetheless, is very much part of the city's character.

  • 4 jesse // Sep 29, 2009 at 7:45 pm

    I agree, but on the flip side, we'll all be waiting less for items because we'll all be using holds more strategically.

  • 5 Sherbet99 // Sep 29, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    I hadn't thought of that, Jesse. I'm pretty judicious about what I place on hold (partly because the SPL search feature can be very cumbersome) and I had a tough time deciding what items to delete.

    However, I really don't get why this costs the library more money. Is there that much labor needed to maintain lists on their computer system? I'll feel better about the whole thing if it really does require extra labor.

  • 6 rideshark // Sep 29, 2009 at 8:42 pm

    It's not a labor savings, it's a materials budget savings. If there are fewer holds placed on items and fewer items checked out, fewer copies of popular titles will need to be purchased. It probably won't have a large impact, but every little bit helps.

  • 7 Bark more, Wag Less // Sep 29, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    So I'm supposed to subsidize your hobby?

  • 8 Tutu // Sep 29, 2009 at 9:25 pm

    As I read the blurb on holds, it isn't the number of holds on an item that will be limited, rather the number of items a borrower may place holds on.

    http://www.spl.org/pdfs/material_loan_change.pdf

  • 9 kg // Sep 29, 2009 at 10:10 pm

    If you give a gift of $100/year to UW libraries you get a UW library card, a great option if you are doing more the 20 inter-library loans a year.

  • 10 cdb8956 // Sep 29, 2009 at 11:48 pm

    The new hold limit refers to the number of items each borrower may have on hold in their account at any one time which is being reduced from 100 to 25. There is no limit to the number of holds which may be placed on any book,CD,DVD etc.
    I don't think the library is arguing that the cost of placing holds (if there is one) is prohibitive. It's the perceived costs that result from the holds that are an issue.
    They have a policy of buying more of any one item that has a certain number of holds placed on it. Fewer holds per person will translate into fewer holds period. The transportation costs of moving all of these materials around is an expense and apparently lots of holds never get picked up.
    I understand that cost savings are needed but limiting the number of holds doesn't really solve the specific problems and really harms the people who use the library the most. I'd like to see the library implement a couple of different changes. First, don't buy additional materials just because there are lots of holds. I don't mind waiting longer for an item. I just want to get in line. Reduce the number of items a person can have checked out at any one time to 25 to increase the circulation of limited items. They're reducing it from 100 to 50 now. What individual can possibly utilize 50 items at one time? The library already makes an exception to this rule for schools and daycares. Start charging fines for holds that aren't picked up and increase late fees. Revisit the idea of a shorter check out time for CD's and DVD's.

  • 11 Randolph // Sep 29, 2009 at 11:56 pm

    Yeah, but you don't get ILL privs with that card (I checked), so that doesn't help.

  • 12 gurple // Sep 30, 2009 at 12:01 am

    Stream everything. Lend out e-book readers to those who can't afford them.

    OK, we're 10-15 years away from that technology being good and cheap and adopted to the extent that you could do away with book-lending, but it's going to happen sooner or later.

    When the e-books take over (which I'm not excited about, but it's inevitable), we'll have these marvelous buildings to use for gathering spaces for all kinds of events. Or to let fall unconscionably into neglect and disrepair. Whichever.

  • 13 Randolph // Sep 30, 2009 at 12:04 am

    You're supposed to support small business in Seattle, at least unless you want to live in a very poor and unpleasant city. Most “new economy” small business, as well as most pro writers and artists, depend on the libraries for research. This is an additional expense to put on them, and it's already an expensive state to run a small business in.

  • 14 Randolph // Sep 30, 2009 at 12:06 am

    Nonsense. There's huge amounts of material that will never be in e-media.

  • 15 gurple // Sep 30, 2009 at 12:10 am

    Sure. But the demand for it among the general public will fall off a cliff.

  • 16 rob3rt // Sep 30, 2009 at 12:29 am

    No Gurp,

    Lets just cancel the contracts, and not build some more bombers, and bombs.
    Then we'll have more than enough money for libraries.

    oh, if it only that easy. . .

  • 17 Crabbalina Crabbypants // Sep 30, 2009 at 2:43 am

    As a librarian (not for SPL)I have to put in my 2 cents. Often other loaning libraries charge a fee for the use of their materials. This is on top of what it costs to ship the book. Should taxpayers have to pay for someone's interlibrary loans? Coughing up $5 is a lot less than what it actually costs the system. Be thankful.

    And don't forget to return your library books on time. (PSA)

  • 18 Randolph // Sep 30, 2009 at 2:58 am

    From there it's a step to, “Why should taxpayers pay for libraries at all?” Given that privatization of other public services has been a consistent failure, I do not find that argument credible.

    The public library service is provided because we, as a city, agreed that it was a benefit to us as a city. The inter-library loan service is valuable to many small businesses: “new economy” firms, writers, and artists, all important parts of Seattle's culture. I don't want to live in a poor and unpleasant city. What about you?

  • 19 boardbrown // Sep 30, 2009 at 6:29 am

    Why don't we charge the bums a fee for bathing in the restrooms? It'll probably generate more revenue than all the other fines combined.

  • 20 pioggia // Sep 30, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    I beleive that Seattle already either passes along the fees, or refuses to borrow books from institutions that charge for ILL, and I have no problem with that, but $5 apiece fee when there is no such cost is awfully high. I don't mind so much for books that are truly hard to locate, but honestly some of the time I'm just trying to find a current/in print book that Seattle can't afford to (or doesn't want to) purchase for it's own collection. Given all the budget cuts I expect the library will be purchasing fewer & fewer books out of the mainstream, which makes a service like ILL even more necessary.

    As randolph said, there are a lot of us who do research without working for a university that this is going to hurt…

  • 21 sdrake1958 // Sep 30, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    More nattering neighbobs on display right here. And many want government run health-care too? Better do some checking to find out just who's paying taxes and who is not. I love watching all the pissing and moaning though. I want I want. Wait, I demand I demand. Could this attitude be due to many figuring out they too are getting gouged and want their's? The waste in government is a shame. Besides, just who in THE hell runs this entire state????????? Who's controlled Olympia for 30 some years? Stupid liberals

  • 22 rob3rt // Sep 30, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    <The waste in government is a shame.>

    How about a $600 toilet cover?
    Reagan said it was “fair and reasonable”.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toilet_seat

  • 23 TheRaven // Sep 30, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    Yeah! It's the poor's fault! Gotta make those poor people pay more!

    We corvids are circling…croak!

  • 24 marigold // Sep 30, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    I regularily check out DVDs and CDs from the library. I just brought back Mad Men Season 2 yesterday! I place holds for stuff like this, but never have more than a few holds cooking at a time. We'll see how this change impacts wait time. But I remain unconcerned. I like the surprise email I get telling me to come on down for my free entertainment!

    Meanwhile, on my Birthday, I donate $100 to the Library beacuse I am just tickled with how great they are.

    You can donate too, if it's right for your budget: http://www.spl.org/default.asp?pageID=about_sup

  • 25 gurple // Sep 30, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    “Neighbobs”? Hee hee hee.

    <tosses mane, flicks tail, stamps hooves>

  • 26 Anna // Sep 30, 2009 at 7:26 pm

    I can see most of the commenters have missed what, for many people, is the biggest change: FEES ON CHILDREN'S BOOKS.

    Until this policy juvenile and picture books had no fees at at all. How do you collect from a nine year old? Do you send them to a collection agency or just turn off their card? Is that what we want to do to emerging readers? What about readers whose parents don't read English? Do we want to chase them away with fees? The library already charges for lost materials but the no-fines-on-kids was the best policy for learning to read.

    I have two children of different ages and interests who want to read/be read different things. Sometimes some of our picture books go back late. But I always have a lot of books around the house and we get our twenty minutes of reading in each day. We use reading to help soothe tantrums, reading to help potty training, reading for everything. Charging 15 cents a day on a picture book will certainly decrease the number of books I check out.

    Great for the library's budget. Bad for kids and for literacy in this city.

  • 27 ethel // Sep 30, 2009 at 10:33 pm

    It isn't unusual to have late fines on children's library accounts. I grew up in Seattle and we certainly had library fines for children then. It was five cents a day for many years (through severe inflation), and fifteen cents a day now is a lot less than five cents was in 1970. When my kids were at the picture book stage, most of the books went out on my card anyway, so we were always paying fines here and there.

    I'm bummed about the interlibrary loan charges, too, but at least you can still make purchase suggestions.

  • 28 ironymaiden // Sep 30, 2009 at 10:39 pm

    every time i've missed picking up a hold it was because the library email notification didn't come through :(

    i'd happily pay fines on missed hold pickups if it meant that the notification system was less flaky.

  • 29 Tara // Oct 1, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    I recommend talking to your clerks and libraries at your local branch.

    ILL's currently cost the library $20-$30 dollars. Patrons will only be paying $5 of this cost.

    If a patron is under 18 years of age they will not go to collections due to overdue fines. At $15 dollars a patron's card is blocked, over 18 if the account goes over $25 there is a possiblity to be sent to collections, but one would have to completely ignore what is going on with their library account to get to that stage.

    A 25 item hold limit will require patrons to think about what they put on hold rather than blindly requesting material.

    When holds expire that also costs the library between $5-$10 dollars all transportation based. Trucks pick up holds and transits from all the branches in the morning and delivery them to Central. Central then processes those materials, which get put on trucks to go out to the branches.

    Of course not all patrons fall under this generalization. I consider myself a heavy user that has mastered the art of requesting material and suspending holds, but in these times we all have to make changes that not everyone likes.

    50 item check-out will hopefully get our patrons to stay on top of their accounts and find more items by browsing the shelves. It also puts less stress on the employees who are processing mass amounts of material a day. I've never met a library employee that doesn't go above and beyond their job description, but with a limited budget, furloughs, and hours cut next year isn't it time the public thought of what they do for us.

    I'll be the first to admit this isn't the most pleasant thing, but something has to be done so that the library can continue to provide excellent customer service with a small budget and be available to those seeking help from the recession and layoffs.

    Just a reminder that the library is paid for by the general budget, which also provides the city with police and fire. Some sacrifies will have to be made.

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