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Library Card Account Resolution Process

Dayton Metro Library

Innovation Summary

Establishing a written appeal process for all library card account charges over $100. An assemblage of library managers will convene to sort through the evidence presented in the appeal and make a final decision.

Innovation Leader: David Slivken, Assistant Director for Main Library Services, dslivken@daytonmetrolibrary.org

Problem Statement

The Dayton Metro Library consists of a Main Library and 21 branch locations throughout the county. The Library is accountable for its library materials under Ohio laws and regulations. This accountability is transferred to the borrower at the time the item is checked out, and remains with the borrower until the material is both returned and discharged on the integrated library system. Prior to this innovation, determining how to address appeals concerning library accounts in arrears was an arbitrary and capricious exercise. There was no formal system in place to address patrons whose accounts showed large fines or unreturned items; even though extraneous circumstances beyond one’s control may have been the cause: such as a theft, break-in, or the patron insistence he/she never checked the items out and/or returned the items. Some managers empowered front-line library staff to waive charges at will; other managers refused to offer any flexibility from official library policy. Depending where your library location was, patrons received polar opposite responses concerning their accounts. Our challenge was to create a process where all library patrons were given an opportunity to appeal fines/fees, proper written documentation collected, and an unbiased assemblage of administrators to convene to make a final decision, properly weighing all the facts and evidence presented.

Innovation

For disputes over $100, the patron will be offered a Library Account Dispute Resolution Form. For the Library to consider any action concerning the account, the form must be completed. The following factors are used to determine the resolution of the dispute:

  1. Official police report provided to the library, if theft was involved.
  2. Patron in good standing with the Library previous to this incident.
  3. Prompt action by the patron in reporting the charges or unauthorized use. Patron must take action within six weeks of initial overdue notice.
  4. Prompt action by the patron in returning necessary dispute form and other paperwork, if requested by the Library.

Based on the evidence the Library receives, the Manager of the Main Library Circulation Division and several members of the Administrative Council will make the final recommendation. The Library may waive up to 100% of the charges. A permanent patron block is placed on the integrated library system stating the outcome of any dispute procedures. Appeals based on not knowing library rules or the amount of fines, claiming your need is greater than someone else, being too busy, uncertainty about a due date, or failing to receive an overdue notice are generally not regarded as valid reasons for canceling or reducing library charges. Charges totally under $100 are handled by the manager at the owning location. Patrons with charges less than $100 may still appeal if they are not happy with the final decision.

Progress

Several interesting outcomes have become prevalent since the Library began this process. The first outcome is that library patrons, who are innocent victims of crime, have welcomed this process. They appreciate the appeal process and the willingness of the Library to work with the patron. Presenting a detailed police report and supporting narrative has been very effective for our patrons in the appeals process. The Library has been very forgiving to patrons who have been a victim of criminal activity or proven misuse of his/her library card, without their knowledge. The Library has been very insistent on patrons following through with a police report. If a police report is not submitted, chances of the Library forgiving all or part of the charges are very slim.

We have noticed many patrons who leave information out of the written appeal and do not produce a police report. When further interviewing patrons with similarly incomplete written appeals, we find the following:

  1. For personal or other reasons, patron will not contact police.
  2. Other family members or friends may be the cause of the problem with the library account. Card holder does not want to file police report against them, but still wants to have charges taken off his/her record.
  3. The narrative is always changing, which is an indication the patron is not being forward with true information for the library to sort through.
In closing, patrons who are victims of unauthorized use of their library cards have embraced the improved process. By just following through on a few steps, they can still maintain their library privileges. Those who willfully are trying to take advantage of the Library by being less than truthful have been stymied by this new process.