For 3 years, it ran in the Greeley Tribune. Since then, it has run in various subsidiaries of the Douglas County News Press. I still have most of my columns in digital format.
For many years, I only gave myself one rule: try to work the word "library" into every piece. My intent was to think in public about just what librarianship means at the end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st.
There have been many advantages for me. I found that putting library plans out in front of the public, and getting feedback about them, helped me make better decisions. Sometimes, I found that it was very difficult for me to describe those plans or policies -- the kind of thing that makes me realize that they might not be good ideas after all. The weekly discipline of explaining my profession to the public keeps me more mindful, more honest. It also has provided steady visibility for the library and its issues.
December 10, 1997 - Video Loan Periods
Every now and then, we get a patron suggestion for a basic change in how we do business. One of the more recent suggestions was to change the loan period for all videos to one week.
This notion came to us by way of a written comment card (you'll see them scattered around our libraries). Every other week our library managers get together to keep apprised of each other's activities, and to kick around any issues that have surfaced. The library manager who received the suggestion (Holly Deni at the Philip S. Miller Library in Castle Rock) then raised the suggestion at the managers meeting.
We have a bias about patron suggestions: we prefer to take them. The loan period for our videos started out as 2 days, mostly because we didn't have very many of them, and wanted to keep them moving. Then, back in 1996, we moved the non-instructional videos to the way it is right now.
We have two different video loan periods. One of them is for 4 days. This applies to the basic non-instructional video. The other is for 7 days, which applies to how-to videos and educational videos.
But there's something decidedly inconsistent about this. It's confusing for staff AND for our patrons to have to keep track of two different due dates for what seems to be the same kind of material. In short, the patron had a good idea.
So it passed the manager review. Then we ran it past front line staff to see if they could think of any problems with it.
The most significant staff concern had to with "holds." Right now, we usually buy an extra copy of something (except for the big blockbusters) for every four requests. Would the fact that videos checked out longer mean longer waits, and therefore more holds, and therefore more purchases of videos?
So we took a look at what winds up on hold. And we learned that while we do a fairly brisk business in videos, they don't account for many of the holds. People tend to check out what they find on the shelves.
As it happens, all of our video shelves are getting a little crowded, and in some of our libraries, we're running out of new room to put extra shelving. This is particularly so at Highlands Ranch and the Philip S. Miller Library in Castle Rock: our building expansions at these locations are still a ways off. So the longer long period meant that we should be able to display a few more videos in less space.
In sum? The change made our procedures more consistent and therefore easier to remember, and gave us a little more breathing space.
Our only other issue was statistics. We track all kinds of materials uses, and it's tidier to change loan periods at the beginning of the year.
So effective January 1, 1998, all our videos will check out for 1 week. Until then, it's business as usual.
Our other limits on video use remain: there is no grace period for video checkouts. Overdue videos will be charged at fifty cents a day, up to $5.00. (That's so you remember that even if they're overdue, it's cheaper to bring them back than to have to pay for their replacement.)
So there it is. Thanks to our patron for a good idea, and to our staff for giving it thoughtful consideration.