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How would you handle this library situation? Is there any way to change their procedures?


staceyobu
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We use two branches of our local library.  We check out about 40 books every month.  I have had horrible issues with the books not getting scanned back in.  Once I took in a stack of 20 and had SEVEN of them show not returned.  I called and asked them to do a shelf check.  They did and said the books could not be found.  I went into the library myself and found all seven books on the shelf.

 

I would say this happens to me every other time I return books.  Every time I call and tell them they say they cannot locate the books.  I am almost always able to easily locate them myself.  I don't believe they actually check the shelves when I call because I can't find any other explanation.  

 

There have now been four incidents when I was unable to locate the books.  I was previously able to do a "claims returned" for three items a year.  The last time it happened, I was told I could only do one "claims returned" and after that I would be held responsible for all items missing.  Every time this has happened, the books were eventually checked out by someone else (proving the library had it) and they fell off of my "record".

 

I am beyond angry.  I don't feel like I can take the risk of them not checking SEVEN books in at a time and claiming I am responsible.  I have NEVER, EVER lost a library book.  They lose them constantly!

 

I have the director of the library's phone number.  I am going to call tomorrow.  Do you think there is any way for me to make a kind complaint and them agree to not hold me responsible for future missing books?  I just want to come up with a good coherent complaint and for them to actually take me seriously.  I really can't afford to buy my kids 40 books a month.  We do not have another close city with a decent library system, so I can't easily just "take my business elsewhere".

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When returning books, can you take them to the circulation desk and ask to have them scanned in while you watch?  Perhaps request a receipt of their return or a print out of what remains on your account?  

 

I've had this happen occasionally at my library, although nothing to the extent of what you've described.  One thing that helps is that I can access my account online and see what books are listed as being out.  As soon as they scan them in, they're removed from the list.  So I check the list about 15 minutes after I do a return to make sure they've all been removed from my account.  If any were missed, I call the branch - usually the book is still right there waiting to be returned to the shelf so they can quickly and easily remove it from my account.

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I know it would be a real PITA but I would go into the library each time and have the librarian scan the books back into the system while you are right there. Have her check your record afterwards to make sure it was done correctly. 

 

I would still call the director though. This is something they need to know about. I'm sure you aren't the only one experiencing this problem so with enough complaints they might update their system or retrain their clerks. Hopefully both!

 

 

 

 

edited to correct spelling mistake. I'm anal that way.

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I had this problem too. I get a lot of inter library loan books which caused an even bigger pain. I started asking them to check all my books back in while I watch. I had talked to several of the librarians about my problem. Others might just think I'm a pain lol. I think it happens to me because I am returning huge stacks of books and the library is not used to that. It's a fairly small library.

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I agree with having them check the items in while you wait or checking your account later that same day to make certain all the books you turned in were checked back in. If not, call them immediately. I would also write a complaint and send it to the director(s), providing details about your experience. 

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Agree with others that you may just need to stand watch over the check-in. It happens to us more often than I'd like, especially when I know I brought them back and check my online account a couple days later, to see fines mounting up for one or more books. Do you tend to go the same day/time? When I mentioned the problem to one of the librarians, she asked when we had returned them—the time they missed a huge stack was a day/time when it's usually busy and from what she said, it seems the person she knew was on staff may have some issues. So maybe trying a different day??

 

It's irritating, I know. And more common than you think. The claim by staffers that the books were not back on the shelf (when they were, shown by you later) would bother me more than anything. 

 

Erica in OR

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I've had that happen at our library as well.  I finally stopped calling to ask them to find the books because they never actually looked for them.  I complained to the children's librarian and she said that there had been a number of complaints by people who checked out large numbers of books.  What we finally found out was that the people responsible for checking in books were not watching the computer closely as they scanned in the kids books.  Our library has radio tags in the books so they just place them on pad and it checks them in/out.  With the kids books they were stacking up too many and not counting or comparing them to what the computer checked back in. The next couple of times I stood there while they checked them in.  It took a couple of months but repeated reminders and complaints to the children's librarian and they finally got better about checking the number of books. 

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I worked at a library for several years where this was a chronic problem--with the library computer system.  It wouldn't make a difference if you watch the books get scanned.  For us, the biggest problem was that the scanner would misread the number.  Additionally, although I realize this is the library's fault, it is extremely annoying to be expected to check in someone's books on the spot. Most libraries do it when time allows.  You want the staff to be on your side, to go to bat for you, not to alienate them.  I'm not saying it's the right attitude for staff to take, but again, you want them on your side.  They know how flawed their system is, even if they refuse to acknowledge it publicly.

 

At my library, my director would appreciate a nice, calm, rational discussion.  The three book limit that your library has may be a good cushion for most patrons, but it is not sufficient for someone who checks out extraordinary numbers of books. (I'm not saying you're checking out too many, just more than the average patron, and that's good!) 

 

This is the conversation I would tell you have:  Tell the director of your repeated experiences, and ask what HE suggests you do to help remedy the library's continued problem.  It is wrong for them to hold you accountable for something that they are reasonably expected to be able to manage within the normal course of their business.  He is welcome to check your record and see that you have never actually lost a book. You are a responsible patron, and it is very stressful to realize you can't depend on the accuracy of the scanner and you have no control over it.  Reiterate your wish for him to suggest how you can best help to manage your account so this doesn't happen.

 

IF you drop your books off at the library inside, ask them to check your account when you check out.  IF you drop off your books in a drop box, check your online account within hours after you would reasonably expect the books to be checked in.  If there is a discrepancy, call them asap and ask for them to check.

 

I'm sorry.  I understand (and I've been on your side of it too, with a library constantly missing books and not taking responsibility).

 

P.S. The irony of them holding you more accountable than they hold themselves----ARGGHHHHHH.

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I worked at a library for several years where this was a chronic problem--with the library computer system.  It wouldn't make a difference if you watch the books get scanned.  For us, the biggest problem was that the scanner would misread the number.  Additionally, although I realize this is the library's fault, it is extremely annoying to be expected to check in someone's books on the spot. 

 

I'm sure it would be annoying. If the library staff were doing their job competently, however, it wouldn't be necessary.

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Two options.

 

Make them scan while you wait.

 

Take pictures of the books you are returning. Photograph the basket of books with titles clearly visible while standing there at the return slot. Better yet, include a newspaper with that day's date. (Okay, the newspaper might be a bit much but you get the idea.)

 

Each and every time they claim you didn't return, produce your return receipt or your photo. While you're at it, show the director.

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This was a huge problem at the library in our old city.  Like others have said, I just stopped putting books in the return and asked them to scan them while I waited, then give me a receipt.

 

The library where I live now does not seem to have this same problem, but the librarians have actually told me that when I come in with a huge number of returns, I should bring them directly to them so I can get a receipt instead of putting them all in the book drop.  So that's what I do.  

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I'm sure it would be annoying. If the library staff were doing their job competently, however, it wouldn't be necessary.

 

If the scanner is scanning incorrectly, the library staff may not know.  Our scanner would blip the number, and we'd have no way of knowing what book was being checked in, whether it was correct or not.  The library staff was entirely competent, I can assure you. lol

 

ETA: We didn't have the ability to print receipts, but we could print out a page of what materials were currently checked out on the account, if requested.

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I would stand and watch while they scan in the books and then get a receipt.

 

We now have self check in and so far so good. Before we got the self check in we would frequently have problems. One time I noticed staff who were checking in books were not really paying attention to what they were doing. They were talking and playing around. It might be a dull job but when possible fines are involved it needs to be done right!

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Do the books go into a box or on the counter? I'm thinking that if the problem is the computers and watch them scan won't help, then take a photo of the books as you place them on the returns counter so you have loose proof that you put them in their hands.

 

I second getting the staff on your side. That has helped us in similar situations that they feel like they know and like us.

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When returning books, can you take them to the circulation desk and ask to have them scanned in while you watch?

 

.

This is what I had to resort to doing with one library system we used in the past. It was a pain but there were no debates about whether or not items had been returned.

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If the scanner is scanning incorrectly, the library staff may not know.  Our scanner would blip the number, and we'd have no way of knowing what book was being checked in, whether it was correct or not.  The library staff was entirely competent, I can assure you. lol

 

ETA: We didn't have the ability to print receipts, but we could print out a page of what materials were currently checked out on the account, if requested.

 

With all due respect, this isn't about you our your former library staff. My comments are specifically about the OP's situation. I'm not sure how you can read her first post and conclude that the library staff is doing its job competently.

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I was having the same problem until I stood there while the books were checked in.  What I do is figure out the number of books I am returning and the amount that should be left on the card. Once the books are checked in I have the librarian tell me how many books are left on the card.  If thier number matches, mine, we are good.  I actually have only had one time when the numbers didn't match.  So, we went through every book again.  Turned out it didn't scan in.  The library personnel was grateful since finding the error on the spot is way less work than trying to figure it out later.  (BTW, I was told by the staff at my library to stand and have it checked in.  I admit, it makes me uncomfortable.  However, now I have done it enough times they know to expect it. If there is a huge line, I will browse around the library until there isn't).  In fact, the one time I didn't stand there since it was one item, it didn't get checked right.  I would think the hassle of having someone stand there versus an irritated customer on the phone would be much better.  This probably varies from person to person, library to library and how busy the library is.

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With all due respect, this isn't about you our your former library staff. My comments are specifically about the OP's situation. I'm not sure how you can read her first post and conclude that the library staff is doing its job competently.

 

Whatever.  My comment was in response to watching while the books are scanned in.

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With all due respect, this isn't about you our your former library staff. My comments are specifically about the OP's situation. I'm not sure how you can read her first post and conclude that the library staff is doing its job competently.

 

But whether they're being incompetent or not, ThisIstheDay was trying to say that it's possible that there is a bug in their computer system because that was her experience, and that the overwhelming "watch them scan the books in" suggestion won't work if that's the case.

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I worked at a library for several years where this was a chronic problem--with the library computer system.  It wouldn't make a difference if you watch the books get scanned.  For us, the biggest problem was that the scanner would misread the number.  Additionally, although I realize this is the library's fault, it is extremely annoying to be expected to check in someone's books on the spot. Most libraries do it when time allows. 

 

I agree it would be annoying if the person demanded to be served in front of other patrons. But I don't see any problem with a patron waiting in line at circulation and asking to have their books scanned in when it comes to their turn. I don't see why their need to have books returned is any less important than another patron's need to have books checked out.

And it does make a difference to watch the books get scanned, because you can ask them to immediately check your record and if there are any discrepancies, you are right there to notice them and the books are right there as well. Book XYZ is still on your record, but there it is right in the stack. The problem can be addressed there on the spot.

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But whether they're being incompetent or not, ThisIstheDay was trying to say that it's possible that there is a bug in their computer system because that was her experience, and that the overwhelming "watch them scan the books in" suggestion won't work if that's the case.

 

I understand that, but if there's a bug in the system, a competent staff will make the effort to troubleshoot and solve it—not pretend to check the shelves for missing check-ins brought to their attention and lay the blame on the patron. 

 

I don't think standing there while they scan the books in is the only way to handle it and said so in my first post. However, if the OP did that and it happened again, it would be easier to prove that there's a problem with the check-in process.

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I agree it would be annoying if the person demanded to be served in front of other patrons. But I don't see any problem with a patron waiting in line at circulation and asking to have their books scanned in when it comes to their turn. I don't see why their need to have books returned is any less important than another patron's need to have books checked out.

And it does make a difference to watch the books get scanned, because you can ask them to immediately check your record and if there are any discrepancies, you are right there to notice them and the books are right there as well. Book XYZ is still on your record, but there it is right in the stack. The problem can be addressed there on the spot.

 

Exactly.

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I work in a library and I agree with the PPs who suggested taking them directly to the circulation desk, requesting a check-in and a returns receipt (if they have the capability to do that) for them.  If they can't give you a returns receipt, then ask for a print-out of your account after the books are checked in.  It should show you what you still have checked out, and if it says any items that you just returned, then you can point it out and request they be scanned again.

 

Yes, this will be a big pain in the behind for you and it will be a pain in the behind for the circ clerk, but you know what?  You've really put up with enough of their accusations and their inability to carefully log proper check ins.  So, I would not feel one bit guilty for asking for the manual check in and receipt. 

 

And, if any circ clerk ever refuses you for that, then ask to see the circ manager or whomever oversees them.  You can explain why you insist on a manual check in to them (even if you have to do it a million times).  One would hope that they would learn and LISTEN to you that they have a problem with check ins, with further hopes that they would do something to rectify that. 

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