Friday, May 16, 2008

Yes, I'm afraid I will be requiring BOTH numbers

A patron phoned and asked if we could renew her books. Now, after years of doing this incorrectly, and taking a few pointers from both my readers and my wife, I have finally, after nearly seven years on the job, started doing telephone renewals correctly...

When a patron asks to renew their books over the telephone I tell them that I can do this one of two ways: A) I can look them up with their library card number; or B) I can take the barcode number out of the front of the book itself to renew it. And I must admit that I've been surprised at how many people have the books in front of them when they call.

Not this lady.

I gave her the options and she seemed at a loss for what to do. She said that she didn't have her library card with her and the books weren't right there either.

"Well, if you like, you can call us back when you have either the card or the books," I said cheerfully.

"Um... well... uh... Hold on." The lady put the phone down and walked away. After half a minute or so, she returned and read me the barcode number from one of her books, which I typed into the computer.

"ITEM NOT CHECKED OUT," the popup window reported.

I tried again.


So I went to the OPAC and looked up the book by its title. It said AVAILABLE.

"Um, ma'am, it would seem that we didn't manage to get the book checked out to you."

"But I have it right here," she said. She also indicated it had a due date stamped in it for the following day's date.

"Well, that may be the case, but it seems as though we didn't actually check it out to you on our end. It's our fault, but not a big deal."

"I have another book I need to renew, too," she said.

"Okay. What's the barcode number?"

"Oh. Um... well... uh... Hold on." Once again, the lady put the phone down and walked away. After half a minute or so, she returned with her other book and read me the barcode number from it.


"Ma'am, it looks like we didn't get either book checked out to you."

"But... I have them right here. And I'm not finished with them. I need to renew them."

"Well, technically, ma'am, we can't exactly charge you overdue fines since they're not actually checked out to you. Just finish them up and bring them back when you can."

This seemed to satisfy her.

"Oh, okay," she said, brightly, and hung up.


Sarah said...

Well, this has happened to me before, but maybe I'm meaner or sneakier, because I just check them out to the patron and then tell them the new due date and they never realize that they didn't check the book out to begin with.

This happens a lot at our branches, since we have self check out. But we don't usually catch it because we have an automated phone renewal system. So I only deal with it when patrons get through concerned about the book not showing up on their record on-line or on the phone.

Juice S. Aaron said...


Dammit, I can't believe I didn't think of that. In fact, that's become kind of standard policy in other areas of circulation for us as it is. For instance, if a patron asks if they're still on hold for a book and we look and they aren't, we're supposed to say, sure and then put them on the list for it. Reason being, chances are good that they didn't show up to pick up their copy the first time we called them and the person running the desk at the time we moved it to the next person on the list simply forgot to put the first patron back on the list.

No, your idea would have been far smoother.

mike. said...

You're sure she wasn't actually calling you from inside the library itself, and just pulling books off the shelf that she wanted? ;)

crsunlimited said...

Yeah come on Juice get with it. If we ever told any of our patrons that the book wasn't checked out to them, and they could bring it back when they where done, we would never see those books again.

Anonymous said...

I would have probably got her name and actually checked the books out to her... For the sake of actually getting them back. Very annoying.

Jan said...

Wouldn't this be possibly connected to your recent power-outage? Her books didn't get written down properly during that time?

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.