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A number of changes in policy, procedures and facility have been instituted, both at Hardesty and within the TCCL system, since I resigned from my circulation clerk position in May 2003.

Today, the Hardesty Library uses a tracking system to monitor when a cart of checked-in books is queued to be shelved, who puts the cart in order and when, and who shelves the cart and when it is completed.  When a cart is full of books to be shelved, a staff member pushes it to the designated location for carts ready to be ordered and shelved and tapes a pre-printed tracking slip to the end of the cart with the current date and time.  When a staff member puts the cart in order, he or she circles “in order” on the form and initials the form.  Thus the shelvers can easily tell when a cart is in order and ready to shelve.  At last, when shelvers take carts to be shelved, they note the time and date they started, the time and date completed, and their initials.  The form is then removed from the empty cart and placed on a spike with other completed forms in the shelvers’ area of the staff workroom.  These forms are reviewed by the head of the Circulation Department, Laura, so that she can monitor shelver performance. 

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In my days of shelving (1998-2000), we were instructed to simply tag carts with the date they were queued for shelving and mark carts that were in order as such.  There was no method of tracking the number of carts any particular shelver put in order or shelved in a given period of time.  This was at times frustrating to shelvers who worked hard while other shelvers took their sweet time.  Supervisors tried to monitor shelver progress through simple observation, but they had too many other responsibilities to really keep an eye on shelvers’ progress.  In a large library with more than two shelvers, sporadic observational monitoring alone simply wouldn’t work.  Hardesty’s tracking system allows supervisors to give credit where credit is due, provide shelvers with accurate performance reviews, identify shelvers who are underperforming, and address any difficulties with which those shelvers may be struggling.  Maybe certain shelvers work more slowly because they are taking extra time to clean and straighten the shelves, or maybe they aren’t applying themselves enough.  In any case, supervisors can identify performance trends and work with the shelvers to optimize efficiency.

For the purpose of transporting books, the TCCL system has replaced tote boxes with book carts.  When I was a young whippersnapper in the circulation department, we would empty the book drop into tote boxes and then carry the tote boxes out to the circulation desk to check in the materials in between checking out customers.  Tote boxes were also used for delivery by labeling each tote with a branch code, like PH for the Peggy Helmerich Library, or KW for Kendall Whittier.  These totes could be very heavy, and we were encouraged to ask a staff member for help with carrying totes.  However, other staff members weren’t always available to help, so I often carried or pushed totes by myself.  I remember coming home with a very achey back many nights, but luckily I never hurt myself too badly.  TCCL now has carts designated specifically for interlibrary delivery, which must greatly reduce backstrain among delivery staff.  Also, items from the overnight book drop are now loaded onto carts and checked in first thing in the morning.  This stops staff from breaking their backs hauling totes from the drop to the circ desk.  Checking in these carts of materials ASAP is important so that discharged items are not mixed up with undischarged items.  This new strategy must significantly reduce the amount of workplace injury.

Another change is that library staff no longer give customers their library card numbers when they have left their cards at home.  Customers can still check out library materials as long as they have some form of identification, and staff can log customers onto the computers if they wish, but staff no longer give customers their card numbers on a slip of paper.  Apparently the previous practice of handing out card numbers led to a number of identity theft instances.  Customers would leave their card numbers lying around, and other customers would pick them up and check out library materials on someone else’s card.  Library cards also qualify as a secondary form of identification at most banks, so you can imagine the problems a stray library card number could cause.  Thankfully, changing this policy has eliminated this avenue of identity theft, preserving library materials and customer privacy.

TCCL has also made some changes to the meeting rooms usage policy.  Meetings in library meeting rooms can no longer take place before or after regular library business hours, and individuals reserving a library meeting room must have a valid library card.  Under the previous policy, organizations could use meeting rooms after library business hours and were supposed to drop the key to the building in the bookdrop after the meeting was over.  Library staff who coordinated meeting room usage struggled with all sorts of difficulties, such as unreturned keys, doors left unlocked over night, meeting rooms left in disarray, etc.  Under the new policy, keys are not loaned out and lost, and library staff can ensure meeting rooms are clean and orderly and doors are locked by the end of the business day.  Requiring meeting room users to have a valid library card ensures that library staff have valid contact information for the customer.  This allows staff to contact meeting room users if room usage policies are not followed.  This policy also draws meeting room users into the library proper, at least briefly, increasing the possibility that the user will access the library’s information resources.  Library meeting rooms have been offered to the public to entice people to come to the library and to provide a forum for information seeking and exchange.  The new policy is meant to keep the library’s physical resources from eclipsing its informational resources.

Since this entry seems to have rambled on long enough, I will continue discussion of library changes in my next blog entry.

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