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Library Policies: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Presented for The Education Institute on 23 April 2015.

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Library Policies: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

  1. 1. POLICY BLUEPRINT CANON CODE CONTRACT DEFINITION DICTATE DIRECTIVE DOCTRINE EXPECTATION FORMULA GUIDELINE PARADIGM PARAMETER PLAN PRINCIPLE REGULATION RULE STANDARD TENET
  2. 2. A POLICY: •SUPPORTS THE LIBRARY & STAFF •USER EXPECTATIONS •CONSISTENCY •DIRECTION •LEGAL & EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS
  3. 3. Policy is often about relationships https://www.flickr.com/photos/baggyjumper/6635779085
  4. 4. http://www.reddit.com/r/funny/comments/1mggb9/ive_realized_that_humans_will_inevitably_choose/ A relationship that often seems like this…
  5. 5. HOW TO TELL IF YOU NEED A POLICY DIFFERENT STAFFERS AND/OR VOLUNTEERS ARE ENFORCING STANDARDS DIFFERENTLY. EXAMPLE: ONE STAFFER IS VERY STRICT ABOUT NOISE IN THE LIBRARY, AND WILL EXPEL TEENS WHO GET ROWDY. ANOTHER IS LENIENT AND ENJOYS KIDDING WITH THE TEENS. A POLICY WOULD PROVIDE STANDARDS FOR STAFF AND LIBRARY USER BEHAVIOR AND FOR CONSEQUENCES OF NOT MEETING THOSE STANDARDS.
  6. 6. HOW TO TELL IF YOU NEED A POLICY SOME STAFFERS AREN’T OFFERING SERVICES THAT THE LIBRARY CAN MAKE AVAILABLE. EXAMPLE: WHEN THE LIBRARY DOES NOT OWN A BOOK THAT A LIBRARY USER REQUESTS, SOME STAFFERS DON’T OFFER TO BORROW IT THROUGH INTERLIBRARY LOAN BECAUSE OF THE PAPERWORK. A POLICY WOULD REQUIRE A PARTICULAR RESPONSE TO THE SITUATION
  7. 7. HOW TO TELL IF YOU NEED A POLICY THE LIBRARY IS NOT CONFORMING TO LAWS. EXAMPLE: GAME NIGHT LASTS UNTIL 10:30, BUT THERE IS A CURFEW FOR PEOPLE UNDER 12 OF 10P.M. A POLICY WOULD MAKE CLEAR THAT LAWS MUST BE FOLLOWED.
  8. 8. HOW TO TELL IF YOU NEED A POLICY THE LIBRARY DIRECTOR IS HAVING DIFFICULTY RESISTING PRESSURES FROM A SMALL NUMBER OF VOCAL CITIZENS TO DO SOMETHING THAT SHE DOESN’T FEEL IS RIGHT. EXAMPLE: A GROUP OF 3 CONCERNED MOTHERS WOULD LIKE BOOKS WITH STRONG LANGUAGE IN THEM MARKED ON THE SPINES. A POLICY WOULD STATE THE LIBRARY’S PRINCIPLES, AND TELL WHEN APPEAL PROCEDURES SHOULD BE USED
  9. 9. HOW TO TELL IF YOU NEED A POLICY CURRENT POLICY IS VAGUE AND OPEN TO INTERPRETATION. EXAMPLE: POLICY SAYS THAT MATERIALS MAY BE RENEWED FOR A “REASONABLE PERIOD.” SOME STAFFERS’ DEFINITIONS OF “REASONABLE” ARE MUCH MORE ELASTIC THAN OTHERS. A POLICY WOULD REMOVE THE AMBIGUITY.
  10. 10. HOW TO TELL IF YOU NEED A POLICY SAFETY ISSUES ARE NOT ADDRESSED. EXAMPLE: STAFF AREN’T SURE WHAT TO DO DURING A TORNADO WARNING. A POLICY WOULD STATE THE GOAL OF KEEPING PEOPLE SAFE AND TELL WHEN PARTICULAR PROCEDURES SHOULD BE IMPLEMENTED.
  11. 11. HOW TO TELL IF YOU NEED A POLICY CURRENT POLICY HAS NOT BEEN REVIEWED IN A WHILE AND DOES NOT REFLECT CURRENT PRACTICE. EXAMPLE: POLICY SAYS THAT FOOD AND DRINK ARE NOT ALLOWED IN THE LIBRARY, BUT COFFEE AND SNACKS ARE SERVED AT THE WEEKLY SENIOR SOCIAL. A CURRENT POLICY WOULD REFLECT REALITY—EITHER THE POLICY WOULD CHANGE TO ALLOW FOOD, OR FOOD WOULD BE BANNED.
  12. 12. HOW TO TELL IF YOU NEED A POLICY THE LIBRARY ISN’T FOLLOWING THROUGH ON ITS STRATEGIC GOALS. EXAMPLE: ONE GOAL IS TO “SUPPORT TECHNICAL (COMPUTER) LITERACY.” YET LIBRARY STAFF HAVE NOT BEEN SENT TO COMPUTER CLASSES THEY NEED IN ORDER TO LEARN THE SKILLS THAT WILL ENABLE THEM TO ASSIST LIBRARY USERS WITH COMPUTERS. A POLICY WOULD REQUIRE THAT THERE BE CONCRETE PLANS TO IMPLEMENT GOALS.
  13. 13. HOW TO TELL IF YOU NEED A POLICY SELECTORS AREN’T SURE WHETHER TO RECOMMEND CERTAIN TITLES. EXAMPLE: THE Y.A. LIBRARIAN WOULD LIKE TO ACQUIRE A SERIES OF MANGA, BUT THE ACQUISITIONS LIBRARIAN HAS RESERVATIONS ABOUT THE “STREET” LANGUAGE AND ADULT SITUATIONS. A POLICY WOULD LIST THE SELECTION CRITERIA.
  14. 14. https://www.flickr.com/photos/pagedooley/3556739684/
  15. 15. https://www.flickr.com/photos/thenationalguard/7609392468/
  16. 16. TERMS • POLICY • POLICY STATEMENT • REGULATION • PROCEDURE • GUIDELINES
  17. 17. POLICY STATEMENT BRIEF STATEMENT THAT DESCRIBES WHY THE LIBRARY DOES SOMETHING. EXAMPLE: “IN ORDER TO MAINTAIN A SAFE AND WELCOMING ENVIRONMENT FOR READING, LEARNING AND OTHER LIBRARY ACTIVITIES, THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY REQUIRES ALL VISITORS TO COMPLY WITH THE FOLLOWING GENERAL RULES AND REGULATIONS:”
  18. 18. CRITERIA FOR A POLICY STATEMENT A POLICY STATEMENT •IS BRIEF. •DESCRIBES WHAT IS TO BE ACCOMPLISHED AND WHY. •IS WRITTEN FROM THE CUSTOMER'S POINT OF VIEW. •HAS BEEN DEVELOPED AND APPROVED BY THE LIBRARY'S GOVERNING AUTHORITY.
  19. 19. REGULATION A SPECIFIC WRITTEN RULE EXAMPLE: THE FOLLOWING ARE NOT ALLOWED AT THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY: …USING ALCOHOL OR ILLEGAL DRUGS. …SLEEPING IN THE LIBRARY OR AT THE LIBRARY’S ENTRANCE.
  20. 20. PROCEDURE STEP-BY-STEP DESCRIPTION OF HOW THE POLICY WILL BE CARRIED OUT. EXAMPLE: RESERVATIONS FOR THE MEETING ROOM MUST INCLUDE THE NAME OF THE GROUP, DATE AND TIME DESIRED, NUMBER OF PEOPLE EXPECTED, AND NAME AND PHONE NUMBER OF PERSON RESPONSIBLE. THE GROUP IS RESPONSIBLE FOR CLEANING THE ROOM, LOCKING THE DOOR, AND RETURNING THE KEY.
  21. 21. CRITERIA FOR PROCEDURES A PROCEDURE •IS A STEP-BY-STEP DESCRIPTION OF HOW THE STAFF WILL CARRY OUT POLICIES. •MAY BE MODIFIED BY STAFF UNDER CERTAIN CIRCUMSTANCES. •HAS BEEN DEVELOPED BY STAFF WHO ARE FAMILIAR WITH THE TASK TO BE PERFORMED. •AND APPROVED BY THE LIBRARY MANAGER.
  22. 22. POLICY TELLS WHAT PROCEDURE TELLS HOW
  23. 23. GUIDELINES A DESCRIPTION OF BEST PRACTICES AND MOST EFFICIENT WAYS TO CARRY OUT PROCEDURES. EXAMPLE: THE RECEIPT SHOULD BE HANDED TO THE BORROWER. IT’S HELPFUL TO SAY SOMETHING LIKE, “HERE’S A LIST OF THE DUE DATES FOR THOSE 10 ITEMS.”
  24. 24. 1. DOES THE POLICY CONFORM TO CURRENT LAW? THIS IS NOT JUST A MATTER OF WHETHER A POLICY IS LEGAL. IF LAWS CHANGE, THEN POLICY MAY ALSO HAVE TO CHANGE.
  25. 25. 2. IS THE POLICY REASONABLE? A POLICY MAY SOUND LEGAL, BUT IT COULD BE SUCCESSFULLY CHALLENGED IN COURT IF IT IS UNREASONABLE.
  26. 26. 3. CAN THE POLICY BE ENFORCED IN A NON-DISCRIMINATORY MANNER? EVERYONE SHOULD RECEIVE THE SAME TREATMENT—NO SPECIAL PRIVILEGES FOR “GOOD PATRONS,” OR RULES THAT ARE NOT ENFORCED ACROSS THE BOARD. A POLICY, NO MATTER HOW REASONABLE OR LEGAL, MIGHT BE CHALLENGED IF IT IS NOT APPLIED EQUALLY TO ALL.
  27. 27. 4. IS THE ENFORCEMENT OF THE POLICY MEASURABLE? A POLICY SHOULD DESCRIBE SPECIFIED OR PROHIBITED BEHAVIORS IN TERMS THAT MAKE DETERMINING WHETHER BEHAVIORS CONFORM AN EITHER-OR MATTER.
  28. 28. “ ” MY CURRENT LIBRARY SPECIAL COLLECTIONS CHARGING A FEE FOR PATRONS TO USE THEIR OWN DIGITAL CAMERAS.
  29. 29. “ ” AT THE LIBRARY WE AREN'T ALLOWED TO GIVE OUT BAND- AIDS BECAUSE THAT WOULD BE DISPENSING MEDICAL ADVICE.
  30. 30. “ ” IF YOU FORGET YOUR LIBRARY CARD WE WILL LOOK UP YOUR NUMBER FOR YOU WITH PROPER ID AND 50¢
  31. 31. “ ” THE DRESS CODE THAT HAD TO INCLUDE 'MUST WEAR UNDERPANTS.'
  32. 32. “ ” THIS WEEK’S WIFI PASSWORD IS… AND THE WIFI WILL BE TURNED OFF WHEN WE’RE CLOSED.
  33. 33. “ ” THOSE WITH MORE THAN $X IN FINES SHALL NOT BE ALLOWED ACCESS TO THE INTERNET.
  34. 34.
  35. 35. “ ” DON’T DOESN’T WORK. WEBJUNCTION, AUGUST 19, 2004 COMPUTERS IN LIBRARIES MAGAZINE, MARCH 2006 MICHAEL SAUERS
  36. 36. “ ” CHARGES TO LOOK UP CARDS GO BACK TO PRE-AUTOMATION. LOOKING UP THE CARD NUMBER WAS NO SIMPLE PROCESS IN SOME OF THOSE SYSTEMS. AND ONCE IT WAS FOUND, IT WASN'T SIMPLE TO CHECK OUT THE BOOKS. IS THE POLICY NO LONGER NECESSARY? DALE MCNEILL
  37. 37. “ ” WE HAD A RULE THAT YOU SHOULDN'T COMMENT ON A CUSTOMER'S ID, BECAUSE A PREVIOUS EMPLOYEE WOULD LOOK AT AN ID AND THEN START TALKING IN THE REGIONAL ACCENT OF WHERE THE CUSTOMER WAS FROM. MARY RICHARDSON IS THERE A “STORY” BEHIND THE POLICY?
  38. 38. ASK YOURSELF… •IS THIS POLICY NECESSARY? OR… •IS THIS POLICY A REACTION TO A SPECIFIC SITUATION? •IS THIS POLICY TRYING TO PREVENT A PERCEIVED PROBLEM?
  39. 39. Thank you! Michael Sauers msauers@travelinlibrarian.info http://www.travelinlibrarian.info Special thanks to Laura Johnson for an earlier version of this presentation.

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