I have several patrons who just don't return books in a timely manner or at all. The library operates on a self-check out method because it's always open and I'm not always there. I send overdue emails and make personal contact. There is a card that stays in the book pocket with the date on it that the book is checked out and the card says in red, "ALL ITEMS ARE DUE BACK IN ONE MONTH". This has helped with some borrowers.
Does anybody bill folks? Are these folks allowed to keep checking out books? Is billing successful? Any other tried and true ideas?
We have a lot of overdues and some are from six months or more ago. We don't bill or use fines; if a very long time has gone by, we tend to mark the book "missing", or remove it from the catalog, or replace it. I find it incredibly annoying but we've decided not to make this an issue.
We have toyed with the idea of putting a jar on the library desk with something like "voluntary overdue fines" on it, in case anyone feels bad enough to give us money! But asking for fines has been nixed by our staff and to be honest, it would be a pain.
Debbie --- in our church, this seems to be the same approach. We don't fine. I did email some people, but still no response by a few.
Judy --- I am trying to work through how to handle overdue items as well.
I know a few would like to have an automated reminder. I don't know if there is such a thing, but toyed with the idea of setting up a standard of which we remind people to either renew or return. But truly, we don't have the highest of traffic. and the main point is that the library items benefit those borrowing. We want to encourage & not discourage lending.
So . . . therefore I'm trying to work through a graceful and yet a responsible approach.
We have a lot of problems with patrons who take materials out and will not bring them back. We mail out overdue notices, call on the phone, send emails, etc. all to no avail on some. We do charge overdue fines but many never pay. We don't bill anyone for fines but they do need to pay the fines before checking out again. If after being six weeks overdue we don't get the materials back we revoke their library privileges. Many libraries now do not charge overdue fines but I cringe to think how many books and DVD's we would lose if there was no measure of responsibility. Every library is different and must come up with their own policies but we find that fines are a necessity.
Please know that the vast majority of our patrons are responsible and prompt in the return of materials. We give extended check out periods for those that ask so there should be no problem with people returning items on the assigned date, respecting the needs of others and understanding library needs in serving everyone in a decent and orderly manner, but there are always the few who don't seem to care that they are keeping materials someone else may need and some just decide to keep the items for themselves permanently. We have a patron now who had her card revoked and then requested we please reinstate it and that she would be more responsible. We did reinstate it and now she has a $150 DVD set checked out that was due back in November and we get no response to our pleas. Church libraries are a ministry to the whole church family and we need our patrons to understand we must serve everyone on a equal basis and we need their help by returning materials on the assigned date. Once again, most do, for which I am thankful.
We tell our patrons when they are added that we do not charge fines, but we come after them if media is not returned. And we smile.
We have our software (Atriuum) set to send email reminders once a week after media becomes overdue.
Most people will renew or return after receiving an email.
A few people will not care. We call them after three months and tell them that it is alright if they can't find the items, they can just write a check to the church for their purchase value. We tell them that other patrons won't be able to use the media until we replace it. And we know that some people still will not respond. Eventually, we mark the item lost and replace if necessary.
We have our software set, so that checkouts are denied if three items are overdue or if one item has been in the patron's possession for 8 weeks.
When the library is unlocked, a librarian is in attendance. There is a self-check station in view of the librarian, but most patrons prefer the librarian's attention at the circulation desk.
I think every library struggles with this issue! We do not charge fines or late fees but we do have a container at the circulation desk that says "Late Fees". This is where people drop off canned goods for our church pantry to cover their fines. This has worked very well for us. When people ask how many cans they "owe", we tell them as many as their conscience requires. We have found that people are extremely generous. I work very hard to find high quality books at yard sales and work with our public library so most of our books are acquired for less than $1. When a book is lost, many patrons insist on paying. We work with many people in Community Corrections so many books are never seen again. But we are pleased that those books are in the hands of people who want and need them. It all seems to balance out in the end.