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Library Student Resource Group: Minutes Oct 18 2007

Library Student Resource Group

November 9, 2007

Present: Daniel Kimerling, Bridget Madden, Larisa Reznik, Fran Spaltro, Hanna Chung, Vaibhav Upadhyay, Han Xiao, Katie Jones,
Judi Nadler, Meghan Hammond, Sem Sutter, Jim Vaughan, John Kimbrough,

Guests: Kimberly Goff-Crews (Vice President and Dean of Students in the University), David Larsen (Head of Access Services), Rachel Rosenberg (Directory of Communications for the Library).

A welcome to our guests, and to new members Vaibhav Upadhyay (Pritzker).

The minutes from our previous meeting were approved.

Loan Periods and Renewal Policies

In response to an earlier LSRG query, David Larsen spoke in detail about the Library's renewal policies. Although patrons had originally enjoyed unlimited renewals, in 1991 the Library, with the support of the Library Board, implemented a 3-renewal limit on books checked out. After 3 renewals (effectively 1 year), patrons had to return books to a University library, where they could be checked in and immediately checked back out. The 3-renewal policy has had several benefits:

However, the renewal limit inconveniences two groups of users: (1) PhD candidates, who often need to keep books for an extended, multi-year period; and (2) users with disabilities, who find it difficult to return large numbers of books. To accommodate users in group (2), Library staff have made individual exceptions to the 3-renewal limit, but this case-by-case method isn't feasible or desirable for a defined set of Library users.

Proposal: Allow PhD candidates -- i.e., those advanced to candidacy by the University Registrar -- unlimited renewals of Library materials on regular loan. Retain the 3-renewal limit for non-PhD graduate students and for undergraduates.

Discussion: There was some worry that such a policy would create class/hierarchy issues, but it seemed clear that PhD candidates had a legitimate need for extended borrowing that did not apply to other user groups. Further, the reasons/benefits for keeping the renewal limit are still valid.

Could the Library send out a "courtesy notice" on a quarterly or even annual basis, reminding users of the items they have checked out? David replied that the Library's computer system is set up to generate overdue notices, and that the first overdue notice effectively serves the same purpose as a courtesy notice. However, we would very much like to send out notices prior to a due date, and will investigate the feasibility of this.

The above proposal was endorsed by LSRG, and Judi will take to the Library Board for final approval.


The counterpoint to the Library's generous loan periods is our recall system. A patron who wants a book currently checked out may place a recall in our library catalog. Library staff notify the current borrower to return the book, and change the due date to one week after the original request was placed. If the borrower doesn't return the recalled book by the due date, fines begin accruing at $3/day. (Faculty are exempt from recall fines.) When the book reaches 16 days overdue, it is marked "lost" and the borrower is billed for replacement. The original patron's request remains active for 45 days, in case the book is returned within that period.

According to statistics shared by David, most borrowers (almost 75%) return recalled books before the due date. However, often the original borrower will immediately place a recall after returning the book, leading to "recall wars." Although relatively few books are recalled (only about 5-6% of total checkouts), almost half of the Library's patrons have received a recall, and of those borrowers who have received recalls, the average number is 5 recalls per year. One person received over 150 recalls last year. So this is a problem that affects a large number of Library patrons, and some in a particularly acute fashion.

There doesn't appear to be a good substitute for the recall system. Some LSRG members asked if the Library would be willing to disclose borrower names, and to let patrons settle the matter "out of court," so to speak. The Library used to have an "opt-out" disclosure policy but realized this violated privacy considerations. A voluntary "opt-in" disclosure system is possible, but we do not expect many patrons to make use of it. One person asked if the Library could identify the recaller to the borrower; this would be complex and any further communication would be completely voluntary (a borrower might just choose to delete the email).

David presented 3 solutions to avoiding "recall wars:"

  1. Buy more copies of frequently recalled items. David presented lists of frequently recalled items and those with a lot of current requests. We could send regular lists to bibliographers, who have purchasing authority. [Update 1/29/08: The lists are being produced, and bibilographers are buying duplicate copies on a special "recall" fund created by Sem.]
  2. Lengthen the recall dates. One week isn't long enough to finish a book, leading to recall wars. We could expand the recall period to 2-3 weeks, although this inconveniences the recaller who may be working on deadline.
  3. Borrow copies of recalled books from other libraries. At present we will not "ILL" (place an inter-library loan) for a book unless the Library copy is lost or missing. We could expand this policy--even allow recalls to automatically generate ILL requests--but this would double the work of the ILL department and incur more costs.

Option #1 seemed reasonable, with the provision that bibliographers will exercise discretion in purchasing duplicates. (Even though the Da Vinci Code has 20+ recalls, we probably aren't going to buy a second copy.) Nobody liked option #2; one week seems the least-offensive compromise between recaller and recallee.

Option #3 also shows promise: while ILL requests for every recalled book would be cost-prohibitive--it would instantly double the work of the ILL department--we could automatically convert overdue recalls into ILL requests. The LSRG endorsed this policy change.

Long-term, what we'd really like is direct consortial borrowing: the ability for students and faculty to borrow directly from other libraries without passing the requests through ILL.

LibQUAL+ and Google

Due to time, we deferred these items for a future meeting.

Other Business

Duplex printing: we've done this as a pilot at Reg, but it's resulted in jamming (an inconvenience at JRL, but a potential deal-breaker at other libraries that just have one printer). However, our contract is up for renewal soon, and it would be good to develop a list of desired attributes related to copying, networked printing, and microforms.

How can we communicate the good things or appreciation of staff? Just let them know (it makes our day!), and submit to Suggestions and Comments.

How about a group of students as a keynote speech at Library Staff Day? (Usually held in August; would any students be around?). A series on "memorable moments in the Library"?