Posts Tagged ‘procedures’

This post continues the discussion from my previous posting, explaining the various changes instituted by TCCL and Hardesty in policy, procedure and facility design since my early days of library circulation work (1998-2003).

TCCL now provides a number of important and valuable resources for staff on its Intranet.  The Intranet provides access to the TCCL policy manual, staff contact information, an online timesheet for clocking hours worked, and information related to health insurance, dental insurance and insurance coverage for various prescriptions.  Templates for printing CD labels and labels for boxes of magazine back issues are available on the Intranet.  Librarians can access listservs to discuss issues with other TCCL staff, such as children’s services or outreach issues.  Also, the Intranet provides forms frequently required by staff, such as vacation request forms, accident forms, incident forms, donation forms, forms for customers who want to request that TCCL purchase a book not currently in the system, and forms for customers who want to request that TCCL remove a book from the system.  Gone are the days when library staff had to rummage through the backroom filing cabinets for these forms.  Now staff can easily access and print these documents from any staff terminal.  I’m sure TCCL had an Intranet in my early circ days, but I don’t remember anyone showing me how to use it.  In the old days, we only had paper time sheets to log our work hours and paper vacation requests.  I remember reading many pages of library policies, but I only had a paper copy, which wasn’t always easily accessible if you needed to refresh your memory on a specific point of policy.  The new Intranet makes a wealth of information and documents easily accessible to all library staff.

TCCL’s children’s website has been expanded significantly in the last six years.  It allows children to search the catalog by text or by picture, and it provides a number of helpful resources like pathfinders, reliable websites for homework research, games, children’s attractions in the Tulsa area and local libraries, and resources for parents and teachers.  There are some navigational features missing that would enhance usability if added, such as links to allow users to navigate from a submenu to a main menu.  The word on the street is that TCCL is preparing to redesign the children’s website soon, so I am sure a number of improvements will be made in the process.

During my internship hours spent in the children’s department, I have not seen any children using the children’s catalog.  I’ve seen them playing games on the computers, and I’ve seen parents using the general catalog at the two kiosks in the children’s department.  Mostly I’ve seen parents and children asking the librarians when they need help finding something.  I asked Buddy, the head of the Hardesty Children’s Department, if they had ever offered a class to show children how to use the children’s catalog.  He said they had tried to offer classes before, but attendance numbers were very low.  At one such class, parents dropped their children off, and the kids didn’t seem to absorb the information very well.  Buddy says they are going to try to offer another class where parents and children can sit at the computer and learn together.  The children’s librarians are anticipating better results with this set-up.

The library has also created a new Tween fiction collection for children and parents who want longer, more advanced books without the adult content that appears more often in young adult and adult fiction collections.  As more and more parents have asked librarians for help in locating challenging reading material without sexual content for their children, the Tween collection was developed to meet this need.  The TCCL catalog reflects the location of these books in the Tween section, just as it reflects the location of books in the Juvenile fiction section.  Tween books are identified by a T sticker on their spines, just as juvenile fiction has  J stickers on their spines.  This collection is located just inside the children’s department, right next to the door, since tweenage customers are almost ready to graduate from the children’s department and to move on to the young adult department.

Another change in the Hardesty children’s department involves the arrangement of the story time room.  When the story time room was originally designed, there was an erupting volcano in the midst of a jungle scene painted on the north wall, and steps carpeted in orange and yellow, looking like lava flowing down a hill, for children to sit on during story time.  A short stairway outside the story time room led up to a child-sized door that opened up at the top of the carpeted stairs inside the story time room.  This arrangement was very visually appealing, and the children enjoyed climbing up the steps and having a special place to sit.  However, the story time room did not have continuous adult supervision when story time was not in session.  The steps inside the story time room were feared to be unsafe for children to climb on without adult supervision, so they were removed, and the child-sized door was sealed.  The jungle painting was expanded to cover where the steps had been, and the room looks very nice despite the changes.  But this situation demonstrates the importance of carefully planning and thinking through facility designs when refurbishing or building new library facilities.  It’s very difficult to foresee all the possible flaws in a plan still in blueprint form, but it costs a lot of money to have to go back and change things later.


TCCL is working hard to polish and update the image of the library, to dust off the collections and make things look shiny and new.  In support of this effort, Mr. Escobar and his staff have been weeding heavily.  When checking in library materials, staff are encouraged to set aside items that look ragged—books with broken spines, ripped pages or covers, water damage, pages falling out, broken media cases, etc.  Covers and media cases can be easily replaced, but if the item itself is damaged and ratty, it is placed in a tote in the workroom so that a librarian can assess it for withdrawal.  Like new library materials and magazines, withdrawals are processed daily.  Since the catalog shows books in the withdrawal box as being available for check out until they are withdrawn from the system, processing withdrawals daily reduces the amount of time staff must spend looking for items that are not on the shelf because they have been set aside for withdrawal.  Hardesty’s shelves are no longer crammed with old ratty books that never circulate.  This makes it easier for shelvers to do their jobs and for customers to browse without feeling overwhelmed.

A number of libraries have book sale areas, where books and other media that have been donated or withdrawn from the library catalog can be sold for a dollar or less.  Hardesty’s book sale used to be located just inside the front doors, next to where the coffee shop used to be.  However, in the interest of maintaining the library’s new and shiny image, Hardesty’s book sale has been moved upstairs to the southwest corner of the library.  This shift means that the first library materials that customers see upon entering the library are the new items, rather than the old, faded, sometimes ragged donated and withdrawn books of the book sale.  True, book sales have decreased, but the money collected is all profit.  Because volunteers organize the book sale, the library incurs no cost by providing it.  Moving the collection to a more discrete location supports the library’s clean and revitalized image.  And as customers find the book sale’s new location, hopefully sales will increase again.

Computer usage policies and maintenance procedures have also changed a bit in the last few years.  During my early circulation days, TCCL had to institute time limits for customer computer usage in order to ensure that a few customers didn’t monopolize the computers while others were denied access.  I was there when librarians tried instituting sign-up lists for the computers, but that didn’t work so well.  Some customers signed up but didn’t show up on time while others beged and pleaded for more time.  Now every customer with a library account can use the computer for 60 minutes per day at branch libraries, and for 90 minutes per day at regional libraries like Hardesty.  Before 2 pm and after 5 pm, customers can request to have their computer time extended if they need it.  The librarians can remotely add time to a customer’s account, without leaving their station at the desk.  This is very beneficial when the staff have a long line of customers to serve.  At the end of the day, the computers are automatically and remotely shut down by the Central Library IT Dept. 10 minutes after closing time.  In the old days, the librarians had to walk around shutting off each computer in the library, and occasionally had to try to extract customers who didn’t want to relinquish a computer.  Now librarians can simply tell these customers that if they don’t save their work and log out, their work may be lost as the computers are remotely shut down.  This setup saves a great deal of time at the end of the day.

I was surprised to learn that the magnetic security strips in library materials are being phased out, and that all library materials are already receiving RFID tags.  I hadn’t really thought about how the magnetic security system and the RFID system would work together, and I didn’t expect TCCL to already be RFID compatible.  I thought that shift would still be a few years down the road, for some reason.  I remember back in 1998 or 1999 when the libraries shut down for a week in order to apply the magnetic security strips to the collections.  It was a time-consuming process, and we only had enough resources to tag every third book or so.  Although the staff terminals still scan items for check-in and check-out via barcode readers, the self-check machines are able to scan the RFID tags in library materials.  According to Mr. Escobar, the magnetic security gates had no discernable effect in reducing the number of stolen library items.  I wonder if one day there will be no need to check out books to customers by hand—perhaps scanners will read the RFID tags on library items as customers walk out the door?

As you can see, Tulsa area libraries have come a long way in just a few short years.

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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. 


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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