Who can borrow books?

How many items can a patron check out at a time?

How long should patrons be allowed to borrow library materials?

Should we charge late fines or fees?

What is the best method for checking out books?

How should children return their materials?

What if my question isn't answered here?

Check It Out
Guidelines for Lending Library Materials

    by Pamela Little

Poor children, unlike like their middle-class counterparts, often do not have access to well-stocked school and public libraries, nor do they usually have their own personal collection of quality books. Thus, for children who live in underserved communities, afterschool program libraries are critical resources because they can provide opportunities to borrow books.

Before you offer your collection for loan, know that your library could lose 10 to 20 percent of its collection annually. Some books will simply not be returned; others will come back with peanut butter between the pages. If you believe, as I do, that the benefit of lending books outweighs the cost of maintaining a collection under these conditions, this list of frequently asked questions may help you establish a circulation policy

Who can borrow books?

All participants in the afterschool program can borrow materials. You may want to extend borrowing privileges to parents and siblings of children in the program.

How many items can a patron check out at a time?

The answer to this question depends on the size of your collection and the number of books you allow to circulate. For example, let's say your collection consists of about 900 items: 350 individual titles, with at least one additional copy of each book; 50 audio books; 25 DVDs; and 25 VHS tapes. If you allow each child to check out two items per week, you could have 60—200 items in circulation in any given week, depending on the size of your program. Under these circumstances, I would recommend allowing children to check out only one item of each kind per week. We hope children will be able to keep track of and return only one item at a time! Furthermore, the "librarian" has to check out, check in, and shelve every item circulated; keeping the number down makes the job more manageable.

How long should patrons be allowed to borrow library materials?

The size of the collection and number of items in circulation once again determine the answer to this question. You might want to consider different policies for different media. Videos are usually viewed in one sitting, so a one-week limit is appropriate, while two weeks is more appropriate for many books such as young adult novels.

You may want to allow renewals. The period of a renewal is the same as that of the original loan: If DVDs circulate for one week, the renewal period is one week. However, you may want to allow no renewals, or only one, for "hot" items such as the latest Harry Potter book. (Of course, another way to handle high demand is to purchase more copies!) A loan policy might go like this:

Material

Max # to be loaned

Loan period

Renewals allowed

CD-ROMs, DVDs, and tapes

1

1 week

1

Picture books

1

1 week

1

Transitional novels

1

2 weeks

1

Young Adult Novels

1

2 weeks

2

Should we charge late fines or fees?

Prompt return of library materials should, of course, be the borrower's responsibility. However, late fines or one-time fees not only provide an incentive to return materials on time but also help cover the cost of lost materials. Ten cents a day per item is a common late fine. A less time-consuming method is to charge an annual fee of, say, $20 per family, the cost of one hardcover book. In either case, you have to set up a system for notifying users, by mail, phone, or email, when their materials are overdue.

You don't want to impose an undue financial burden. If you levy late fines, set a limit so that users can't accumulate fines they can't pay. For instance, patrons who owe more than three dollars should have their borrowing privileges revoked until the fine is paid. You might offer occasional amnesty periods, such as in the two weeks before vacation.

What is the best method for checking out books?

Methods range from rudimentary paper systems to sophisticated computer software. You can use a simple sign-out sheet, which includes the child's name, the title of the item, and the check-out and due dates. Book pockets with date-due grids, available from library supply companies such as BroDart, allow the adult who serves as librarian to stamp the due date directly into the book.

Computerized circulation systems such as Readerware use barcodes in books to create a list of books on loan. Borrowed items immediately appear in the electronic catalog as being checked out, with the due date.

How should children return their materials?

Some public libraries have both external and internal book drops, but afterschool programs should locate their book drops inside the library. Set up regular times for returning books, such as before or after program activities or during a regularly scheduled library time. You can invest in a book truck to receive returned books, but wicker baskets or milk crates do the job just as well.

What if my question isn't answered here?

Please email me, and I will try to answer your question.


Home |  The Wire |  Library Development 101 |  Book Club Guide |  Bookshelf |  Links |  Bios

www.robertbownefoundation.org