Does your library renew?
February 21, 2005 2:52 PM   Subscribe

I work in a public library. We do not renew books or extend borrowing times, and instead issue items for slightly longer than what is usual. This is a fairly unpopular policy, and library patrons often insist that our library is the only one on the planet that doesn't renew. Is it?

I want to be able to point out to them that it's not all that uncommon - there is at least one other major library in NZ (where I am) that has the same policy. My question is: does your local library not allow renewals?
posted by malpractice to Human Relations (33 answers total)
I've never encoutered that as a comprehensive policy, no. But most libraries have this status for certain items. And some can not be checked out at all.

I can understand the reason for the policy, though I'm not sure if, in practice, whose interests it serves. Has this always been your policy? Or did it come about recently?
posted by scarabic at 2:56 PM on February 21, 2005

I've only dealt with one library that didn't do renewals. That was a bit of a special case though: my college library let you check books out for as long as you wanted, with a 4 week minimum. After that, if someone else wanted the book, they could recall it, and you had a week to bring it back or you got heavy duty fines. (And professors could recall at any time.)

As far as your library, do you actively prevent people from just manually checking the book out again? If so, isn't that a bit artificial?
posted by smackfu at 2:58 PM on February 21, 2005

My library allows renewals (online even) unless there is a hold on the item.
posted by turbodog at 3:01 PM on February 21, 2005

I've used libraries in VA, FL, MA, and NY, and I've never used a library that didn't allow renewals. Most libraries I see will allow people to do renewals of most items, even online sometimes (a feature I take advantage of).

Is there a good reason to not change your policy, considering it's fairly unpopular? I'm not sure I see the rational.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:12 PM on February 21, 2005 [1 favorite]

I've never encoutered a library that does not allow me to renew what I have checked out.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 3:15 PM on February 21, 2005

I've never been to a library without renewals.
posted by Jairus at 3:15 PM on February 21, 2005

Why is this your policy?

I've never heard of such a thing myself.
posted by delmoi at 3:17 PM on February 21, 2005

My "local" (tax funded and closest) public library is a 20 minute bad-traffic one-way drive in a direction in which there are no other errands. If they didn't let me check out a ton of books and renew online indefinitely, I'd be pretty unhappy. Are your patrons close enough to pop around when they need more time?
posted by arabelladragon at 3:20 PM on February 21, 2005

The policy was brought in six years ago (before my time), and it was done so that everyone would get a chance to borrow items. As it is they can wait for it to go back onto the shelf (usually takes an hour or so) and get it out again, but they can't do it as soon as they reserve it, and certainly not over the phone. I can't really criticise the policy without getting in trouble, but needless to say, it is tedious to enforce.

Stack items can be re-issued, since they can't be browsed by the public.
posted by malpractice at 3:20 PM on February 21, 2005

Never heard of no-renewals growing up in CA.
posted by falconred at 3:21 PM on February 21, 2005

my (NYPL) library doesn't allow renewals on new 1-week books.
posted by amberglow at 3:24 PM on February 21, 2005

Where I wrote 'reserve' I meant 'return', above.

Thanks for the answers!
posted by malpractice at 3:26 PM on February 21, 2005

I've never heard of a no-renewal policy, and as a patron I'd be pretty upset too. I've worked extensively with libraries through Missouri and Michigan.
posted by gd779 at 3:26 PM on February 21, 2005

Never heard of it! Don't like it! Sounds fascistic!
posted by xmutex at 3:26 PM on February 21, 2005

We allow renewals at my library on everything but videos, new books, and graphic novels. We only allow one renewal on things that can be renewed, and you can do all your renewing online. We have a hold policy that works with the online catalog so that someone can put a hold on a book that's checked out. It wouldn't be rocket science to tell a patron that they could only renew a book that did not have a hold on it. Then get busy educating your patrons about howe the hold system works. I know a fair amount of libraries and librarians and my gut feeling is the same as other peoples', I've never heard of a library that does this in the US.
posted by jessamyn at 3:34 PM on February 21, 2005

We actually allow unlimited renewals (and unlimited checkouts) at our library, so long as there are no outstanding holds on the item.

Our patrons love it.
posted by ulotrichous at 3:38 PM on February 21, 2005

this is highly unorthodox!

at my library, patrons can renew their items by phone a maximum number of two times, and if they need even more time they can just physically bring the items to the library and check them in and back out again. our computers are set up so that items with holds or reserves placed on them can't be checked out (should they magically find their way back in the stacks) or renewed (which is a bit of a hassle in instances where someone checks out a book while it has no hold and a hold is placed upon it before it's returned, meaning it can't be renewed) and most of the libraries I've dealt with operate similarly.

in fact, many complain that only two renewals are not enough despite the fact that our check times are a bit more generous than most (three weeks for most things).
posted by mcsweetie at 3:51 PM on February 21, 2005

If the reason is to make sure everyone gets a shot at the book, I think that a hold system is the best of both worlds. If someone wants the book, they can get it. If not, no pressure to return it on the off chance that someone is waiting by the shelf for it to be returned.

(and as a data point, my library allows renewals)
posted by revgeorge at 4:00 PM on February 21, 2005

On-line renewals here, to. Cheltenham, Montgomery County, PA.
posted by fixedgear at 4:01 PM on February 21, 2005

Among lending libraries I have not come across any with no renewals for anything ever, though having some restriction on renewals is common.

For example, our public library in Illinois used to only allow a single renewal, till it was increased two renewals a few years ago. The standard loan period for most books it four weeks, so now if nobody else requests the book (there's a charge of 50¢ for requests, so some cheapskates won't ever reserve) you can keep the book for up to twelve weeks before you must return it. Turnaround to get it back on the shelf is 24-48 hours once it is returned.

The thought behind the policy is to balance fairness and convenience. Books that are not on the shelf cannot be browsed and there are many people who dislike using catalogs and prefer to browse the shelf. And even if they are willing to place a request they must go back to the library to pick them up. Against that is balanced the idea that a person who actively want a book should get to keep it for a while -- what's the point of it being on the shelf if it could actually be out being read, even if slowly? A book on someone's beside table is more likely to get read than a book on the shelf in the library, and we buy the books for people to read or we are wasting our money.

Everyone getting a chance to borrow is a great idea, but whether zero renewals is a good balance or not I have my doubts, though you didn't say what the "slightly longer" loan period is. Waiting two or more hours to get a book back for the equivalent of renewal is trivial for people with a lot of time on their hands, but probably not an option for most patrons. I know it is not your policy, but it seems to me that if one wants to try to keep the retired, homeless and unemployed happy at the expense of the employed, parents, and other busy people this might be a good way to start.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 4:07 PM on February 21, 2005

Very odd-- renewals (online and otherwise) are allowed at all libraries I work at and frequent, unless there are holds on the item in question.
posted by fabesfaves at 4:08 PM on February 21, 2005

I've dealt with libraries throughout California, New York, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania. The most restrictive renewal (book*) renewal policy I've ever encounted is 2 renewals, max; as soon as it goes on hold, you're prevented from renewing at all. Since my local branch is tiny and devoted almost entirely to pop fiction, the good stuff like A People's History of the United States can only be obtained by reserve. And then of course someone else reserves it, because the other branches are just as badly stocked and have the same annoying policy which prevented them from finishing it within their single borrow period either. Nevertheless, I am quite determined to finish reading this one book by 2006. 2007 on the outside. *sigh*

*Other media like DVDs, CDs, etc. do get more limited lending policies.

If the intent is to let everyone borrow items, may I suggest that the goal can be better (and more satisafactorily) met by extending unlimited renewals (or at least several more than zero...) that stops once another patron issues a hold? Keeping the collection in circulation is a laudable goal. But this is bass akwards. What's the point of confiscating the book from someone who would gladly benefit from it, so it can collect dust on a shelf waiting for the mere possibility that someone else might want it at the same time? As long as your library has an accessible catalog that makes it possible to discover a book without personally seeing it on the shelf, and permits patrons to place holds, this policy is arcane.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 4:10 PM on February 21, 2005

According to a quick Google search (library no renewals), it seems that a lot of libraries have a policy of barring renewals on certain items, commonly videos, CDs, government documents, reserve items, etc. I haven't seen any that have no renewals on everything, except for a set of interconnected libraries that were updating their cataloguing software and couldn't handle renewals during that time.

York University's Sound and Moving Image Library has this policy: "There are no holds or renewals on SMIL materials, with the exception of scores. Material may not be signed out during the hour following its return by either the previous borrower or the returnee. Items returned within one hour of SMIL's closing may not be signed out by either the previous borrower or the returnee until the following day." Combined with a $3/hour fine up to $100 on certain materials... I return them on time. It's a pain in the ass, but they like to have those materials on hand at all times for professors, so I understand it. Just regular books in a public library, though? Nah.
posted by heatherann at 4:11 PM on February 21, 2005

Every library I've ever used (Lima, Ohio; Louisville, KY; Jeffersonville, IN; Tomah, WI; Milwaukee, WI) has allowed patrons to renew checked-out titles unless the book was on hold for another patron.

Yes, you really are the only library in the universe that doesn't renew checked-out titles.

Sucks to be alone, doesn't it? :(
posted by chota at 4:46 PM on February 21, 2005

chota: I work for one of those libraries. Sure, we let you renew once. That's it. Even if there are no holds. And that is for printed material only. DVDs, CDs, etc can not be renewed.

My wife is at a university library. Undergrads can check out for 28 days and grad students for 120 days. Both get 7 renewals. Any book can be recalled after 14 days.
posted by ?! at 5:34 PM on February 21, 2005

I tried several Google searches, and then this one produced a link to this page at Hawaii Pacific University Library. Still strikes me as a poor way to run a library.
posted by ori at 8:05 PM on February 21, 2005

I've lived (and used libraries) in California, Texas, Washington and British Columbia, Canada. I've never heard of a no renewal policy.
posted by deborah at 8:20 PM on February 21, 2005

The libraries I've used in NY, FL, and here in Southern Ontario allow renewals unless someone else has placed a request to hold a book. I renew online here, too (love it, especially at the last minute). It's a good policy, I think; it lets me have the book as long as I need it unless someone else wants the chance to borrow it, then they get a turn.
posted by Melinika at 8:38 PM on February 21, 2005

The Wellington Public Library in Wellington, New Zealand, has not allowed renewals for several years, much to my chagrin when I moved there.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:16 AM on February 22, 2005

I can't fathom that this is better than a reserve system, but I'm in a fairly large metropolitan area where even the smallest library has at least ten thousand titles on the shelves, meaning that one would have to try awfully hard to not be able to find something that they wanted. Perhaps not the specific book that they wanted, but having a no renewal policy doesn't help there very much without a reserve system, unless you expect someone to sit in the library and wait in hopes that they'll be there within the golden hour when they can scoop a book up before the returnee.

If more patrons are complaining about this policy than not, it may be worthwhile to suggest to management that it's time to review it. If the library isn't doing its best to serve the people who patronize it, then it isn't fulfilling its mission.
posted by Dreama at 4:01 AM on February 22, 2005

I can only speak for Indianapolis, IN, but our libraries limit us to 3 renewals (online, in person, whichever) for books, but since we can check things out for 3 weeks at a time, that's a hefty chunk of time to get everything finished. However, if someone puts a book on hold, you can't renew it, and I think DVDs, CDs, etc., can only be renewed once.
posted by headspace at 6:18 AM on February 22, 2005

I've never seen such a policy either, and I've spent a large chunk of my life in libraries. It strikes me as a terrible idea, and you might consider suggesting to the annoyed customers that they write the head librarian to complain.
posted by languagehat at 8:46 AM on February 22, 2005

I'm a systems geek for a 20+ public library co-op in Michigan. Most of my libraries allow 1 renewal on most item types if there are no holds on the item. One library allows 2 renewals on most items. Another library has a grace period before fines kick in.

Several of my libraries do not allow renewals on certain item types, usually high-circing items like new books, new DVDs, etc. These items usually have shortened loan periods, also.

My favourite line when I was front line library staff was, "I don't have the authority to address your concern. Let me get you someone who does." I would then go get the director or the senior librarian on duty. When I was the senior librarian on duty (I got promoted), I would write out the address to send complaints to (the library board, in our case) and give it to upset patrons. This stopped most patrons from screaming, and allowed those who really were cheesed off to actually do something other than abuse circ staff.
posted by QIbHom at 3:29 PM on February 23, 2005

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