Library Makes Changes to Checkout Policies
Library Stories of Equity in Action
High use items like phone chargers, headphones, and books professors place on course reserves often have a limited checkout time in order for a large number of students to be able to use them. Prior to this project to update our policies, library staff relied on overdue fines to ensure that short-term checkout items were returned on time. This can place an undue burden on students - particularly on those who have limited resources. As part of the library's focused efforts to implement and maintain anti-racist and anti-oppressive practices in our services, we asked: how could we apply an equity lens in this situation? The staff in Circulation Services reviewed our use policies in order to ascertain if changes could be made that allowed easier use of these items while still making items available to most users.
After our initial review, we decided to address two issues that were affecting a number of student users:
- Many times when students asked for phone chargers, all the phone chargers were already checked out. Adding to this issue, the students who checked out phone chargers often had trouble getting them back within the 4-hour loan period.
- Could we purchase more phone charges and make them due at closing time?
- When professors placed books on overnight checkout for course reserve readings, these items were due within 1 hour of opening in order for other students in the class to have access to the book the following day.
- Students using books placed on overnight checkout often had trouble returning them the next morning due to scheduling issues. When other students in the class asked Library staff when the item was due back, library staff would have to tell them that it was already overdue, and we were not sure when it would be returned.
- Could we change to a 24 hour checkout instead of overnight? This would allow the user to return it at the same time of day they had checked it out while still giving others in the class access to the book.
The library was able to use Student Library Fee funds to purchase additional phone chargers and headphones making more items available to meet the high use demand. We also changed the checkout time from 4 hours, to making items due at the end of the day.
We were able to change overnight reserves loan rules (due tomorrow 1 hour after opening) to 24-hour checkout. This allowed students to take the item home and have it back the next day for classmates to use, while giving the student a more reasonable amount of time to return the item.
When library staff see a pattern where students are having difficulties with the use limits or policies that the library has in place, this is a sign that we should review the policy. Why was it put in place? In our example, to allow more students to use a resource. Is it causing an undue burden on students who should be benefiting from use of an item? Is the policy accomplishing the original goal? If not, what can we do to change the situation?
Do you know of a policy that is not working for your needs? Or do you have an idea for how the library could change our procedures to better meet student needs? Let us know on our Suggestion form. Be sure to include as much information as you have to identify the policy that needs improvement and how we can contact you to get further input if needed.
Posted: December 13, 2021