An employee of a small town "liberry" chronicles his quest to remain sane while dealing with patrons who could star in a short-lived David Lynch television series.

Friday, November 30, 2007

We've Got Letters!

The following letter was originally sent to me as a comment response, but I think it deserves a closer look in a larger forum. So here we go...


Dear Liberry Ninja,

I live in an area with a county-wide liberry system that allows me to search the online catalog from home, reserve books that are checked out or living at other branches, and then pick them up later at my neighborhood branch. It even emails me when the book is ready to be collected from my branch's reserve shelf.

I visited the circulation desk the other day because the book I'd been notified about wasn't on the reserve shelf. When I gave the nice lady my name she said, "Oh, yes. I know that name." And she said this very inscrutably, so I'm trying to figure out if there was extra meaning there. I'm guessing I reserve a noteworthy number of books. But am I reserving too many books?

Am I being a pain in the ass?

--Don't Want the Liberrians to Hate Me

Dear Don't,

Are you being a pain in the ass? Eh, possibly, but probably not.

We too have a couple of patrons who do pretty big business when it comes to reserving lots and lots of books from home. Granted, we don't have a fancy system like the "liberry" in your area that can send emails and alerts. We barely have one that lets people reserve things on their computers at home and, unfortunately, we don't always remember to run the report to see what books have been paged so we can fetch them from the stacks. But when we do remember, and there are suddenly eight books on hold for a given patron, I can't say that we resent it much.

Frankly, I'd rather have patrons reserving those eight books from home than tying up the circ desk or (God help them) phoning us to reserve them. They always start rattling off titles to me at breakneck speed, as though our slow-ass computer is capable of allowing me to reserve them at that sort of pace, let alone my poor typing fingers. I have to stop them, write all the titles down on a piece of paper and do them one at a time later on. Otherwise there's lots of starting and stopping and repeating and, yes, resentment on my part. And if they're phoning from home, they always start with the rattling-off-of-titles and I have to interrupt them to ask for their library card number and they NEHeHeHEEVER have it handy, so they gotta go dig it out of the cat's ass, or wherever they keep it, to come back and start the whole thing over. Now that's maddening! So, to me, reserving things from home, quietly and without involving me so much is a very good and welcome thing indeed.

Our only real trouble with our major offen... uh, user of the home reserve system is that she reserves SO many books at once and then doesn't usually come pick them up in a timely fashion, needlessly clogging up the limited amount of space in our hold bin. The books stay there for five days, then get reshelved until they're checked out and returned by other patrons, starting the hold process over again, or until the patron who requested them finally comes in for them, days or weeks later. (Fortunately she never complains to us when all eight to ten books are not immediately available after she's let their hold time lapse and she's okay with finding them on her own.)

In our system, interlibrary loans have to be done through the library requesting them, rather than by patrons at home, so that's not much concern. Our major problem with ILL patrons is that some of them request the limit in books and then hound us for them, calling every couple of days to see if they've arrived yet, despite our assurances that it may take up to 10 days to receive them and oru promises to call them the moment the books come in. Then, once the books have arrived and we call them as promised, they let them sit in the ILL bin until nearly the due date a month later, then complain to us that they only get three days to read them all. Don't ever be that guy.

Otherwise, I think you're a good patron, I'd be happy to have you at our branch, and I doubt that your local liberrians think you're an ass. They're even probably happy for the circulation numbers you help generate. Way to go.

7 comments:

Jan said...

I think I've made similar comments to patrons, and while I can't speak for whoever said it to you, for me it's usually a "hey, you're one of our regulars, nice to match a name with a face" type comment. When I see the the same name over and over on the hold shelf, I tend to get to know who that person is.

Ponytail said...

You only hold the books for five days ?! Yikes ! I'd be in trouble, as I can only pick books up once a week.
Mind you, I'm used to having to pay for every reservation I make (this was usual until recently) so UK borrowers tend not to reserve too many books. No, we do 'shelf checks' where you ring up the library and make them look for the book then and there. Hate it as a librarian, do it often as a borrower...

The.Effing.Librarian said...

1 librarian to search book in our catalog to verify we do not own it: 2 minutes
1 librarian to search patron to verify status: 2 minutes
1 librarian to search Amazon to check when item was published: 3 minutes
1 librarian to search WorldCat to find requested item: 3 minutes
1 librarian to place ILL request if patron is in ILL database: 2 minutes
1 librarian to place ILL request if patron is not in ILL database: 7 minutes

Assuming that the librarian makes $25/hr, that's a possible $5 to $7 to place that ILL request.

To further process the request, the ILL department continues with:
1 clerk to enter the request: 2 minutes
1 clerk prints and files the printed request: 3 minutes
1 clerk receives the mail, unpacks and checks the item: 6 minutes
1 clerk links the item to the patron: 1 minute
1 clerk brings the item to the circulation desk (usually in bulk): 1 minute

Now Circulation takes over:
1 clerk files the ILL slip and places the item on the shelf for the patron to pick up: 3 minutes
1 clerk checks out the item to the patron: 2 minutes
1 clerk receives the item from the patron and initials the ILL slip for the patron as proof the item was returned: 3 minutes
1 clerk packs the item and ships it back to the lending library: 10 minutes

Assuming the clerk makes $14/hr., her part costs $4.

I don't know what it costs to mail a book, maybe $2 each way? So the total cost of each ILL (per library) is about $12.

So this is my point: it really pisses me off when someone requests some mass market paperback that sells used on Amazon for one penny. I know there's shipping involved, but have many patrons who request paperbacks that are actually listed for 1¢.

It's not supposed to bother me, since I worship Satan, and wasting resources strengthens the Dark Lord and hastens the arrival of His demonic apocalypse. I know this. We all know this. But when I see this, it just burns my britches (which isn't really possible since they're fireproof) and makes me want to stomp my cloven hoof in frustration. Causing war and pestilence is one thing, but wasting tax dollars is entirely something else.

-didn't mean to take up so much space- delete if you want.

Bas said...

Most of our patrons actually like it if we remember their names and have their holds in hand before they get out their card. Except for one guy. He tends to get paranoid if we remember his name, like we are keeping tabs on him or something. Um, we aren't keeping tabs on him, but he is in every day picking up his holds, so yeah, we remember him.

Juice S. Aaron said...

Effing,

"Assuming that the librarian makes $25/hr" ???

"Assuming the clerk makes $14/hr." ???!!!!

Holy #&$%!! Where do you live?!! Cause I need to move there!

sometimesrandom said...

I work in a library that is part of a countywide cooperative with over 40 libraries. When I first heard of patron placed holds I was sooo against it. Now I love it. I no longer have to search for books and call every library in the county to see if they can send it while I sit on hold and we tie up two phone lines.

Oh, my cow! I want to work at the $25/hr library!

Ponytail said...

the.effing.librarian : Don't you then get charged by the lending library for the loan ? Loan charges here in the UK range from £3 to around £20. Not that the patron has to pay that, but it certainly racks up that cost. Add postage of at least £2 and more if it's a British Library book, as they like to get their books returned by registered/recorded deliveries, which is another fiver on top...