Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Actual Telephone Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #113


ME— Tri-Metro County Library.

FEMALE PATRON— Yes, I have a book I'd like to renew

ME— Okay. Can I have your card number, please?


FEMALE PATRON— Oh. (Long Pause) I didn't know I needed that. My card's in my pocket book... out in the car.

ME— Okay.


FEMALE PATRON— You can look me up by name.

ME— Actually, no. We have to have the number.

(Long Pause)

FEMALE PATRON— (Angry) Oh, come on! You can't look me up by name?!

ME— I'm sorry, no. It's our library consortium's policy that we have to have your library card number to access your patron record. It's just like we have to have your card when you come in to check out books.

FEMALE PATRON— But... but... You can't look me up by name?!

ME— I'm sorry, no.


FEMALE PATRON— Can't you just look me up by name just this once?

(She really said that)

ME— No.

(Really Long Pause)

FEMALE PATRON— (In great disbelief) You HAVE to have the number?

ME— We have to have the number.

(Another really long pause)

FEMALE PATRON— Well... Well I guess… I guess I'll have to call you back some other time, then.

ME— Okay.

(Long pause)

FEMALE PATRON— I didn't know that I had to have my card.

ME— I understand.

(Long pause)

FEMALE PATRON— I thought… I just thought I could call up and renew my book… without my card.


FEMALE PATRON— I didn’t know it was policy that you couldn’t do that.

ME— Yep. We need the card.

(Long silent pause obviously calculated to try and make me relent)

ME— (Not relenting in the slightest) Yep. It’s just like checking anything out here at the desk. We have to have the card.

FEMALE PATRON— Well, I guess... I guess I'll have to call you back some other time, then.


FEMALE PATRON— (Sad tone, suggesting that her car is parked in, perhaps, Abu Dhabi) Because, my card’s out in the car.

(Another sympathy-generation-attempt long pause)

ME— We'll be here.


FEMALE PATRON— (Now, clearly attempting some sort of ignorance defense) I didn’t know. I didn’t know I couldn’t just call it in.

ME— Mmm hmm.

FEMALE PATRON— I just thought I could have the book and call in.


ME— Wait. You have the book right there with you?


ME— Ohhhh! Then I can renew it from the barcode on the book.

FEMALE PATRON— What? (Happy) Oh! Oh, good.

(I flip over to the renew screen and then wait a very long time for her to read the barcode number to me)

FEMALE PATRON— Um. The one on the back of the book?

ME— (*MENTAL SIGH*) No. I need our barcode… on the first page inside the cover?

FEMALE PATRON— Oh... oh, I see.


John Overholt said...

As annoying and over-the-top as her passive aggression was, did it not occur to you at any point to suggest that she could renew it with the book? Why not save yourself some time and volunteer that little nugget of information, instead of fighting it out on the line of "my card is on the dark side of the moon/in my car"?

Juice S. Aaron said...


You make a good point.

It doesn't usually occur to us to offer that method because mostly people don't have the book with them when they call to renew. Most of the time they're calling us from work and just expect us to look them up and do it, then act all surprised that we might not be able to do that without a card number.

As you suggest, though, it would probably behoove us as a library to begin the slow and glacier-like process of training our patrons on the alternatives.

MrAnonymous said...

Would it be against library policy to have a small sign stating "Cards must be presented to lend books"?

Anonymous said...

I have a headache just from reading this... You could save your time, the patron's time, the next patron's time and even his brother's time by just typing in the last name... And limit some bandwith usage in the process making people you don't even know happy downstream. What could have been a 30 second transaction instead turned into a several minute nightmare and ongoing headache.

This is almost as bad as our ILL policy that states a patron must initiate a request electronically, or come in to the brick and mortar structure, but no telephone allowed. But after we're on the phone and locate the item, and have the screen in front of us asking for a name and phone number we're supposed to tell the person, "Yes, we can get it... Come on in" So that we can just do all that f&@king work over again at a later time because there is nothing like doing any job twice when you can do it once.

Juice S. Aaron said...

Librarian Woes,

I personally am all for being able to look people up by name and use their drivers license number as a confirmation of their identity. It takes far less effort for me to rent DVDs without a card at Blockbuster, after all. And it doesn't make sense to me that we require a driver's license number as proof of identity if patrons can't use that proof to proove their identity when they've gone and left their card at home. But, again, our consortium's policy states otherwise and we've agreed to abide by that no matter how nonsensical it might seem.

At the same time, I fail to see why it's such an enormous hassle for some people to carry their library card with them, particularly if they're coming to the library hoping to check out books. Mine is on my person at all times.

Seems like I've had this discussion before...

Anonymous said...

At the Gulfport Library, they print a receipt to show due date and it has a patron ID number on it. They prefer renew by phone to use this (even over the actual card as I learned when I had the card instead of the receipt/snazzy bookmark)

Holley T said...

Ah, shackled by policy and Privacy Laws. I'm with you Juice, I'm not willing to risk having my ass chewed by management should they discover I'm looking people up by name.

I will look up a person's library card record to place a hold if they call in and don't have the card because they are not adding any fiscal responsibility to the record by placing a hold and the card will have to be presented when the book actually comes in but, beyond that, no look-ups not no how,not no way. It's just not worth it.

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.