Another year has ended and now it is a great time for library professionals to look back at their activity and plan for 2019 with a fresh view.

Another year has ended and now it is a great time for #library professionals to look back at their activity and plan for 2019 with a fresh view. Click To Tweet

There are many things that libraries got attached to in their long history such as fines, the library card, the Dewey classification and many other things that librarians have tested: the switch of focus from books to other activities, the removal of quiet zones and more. Some of them are not that successful anymore or still need more time to see the actual results.

To get more insights about a few statements library professionals should rethink in 2019, we have talked with two library experts for their insights and advice: Ian Anstice, editor of Public Libraries News (United Kingdom) and Jane Cowell, Chief Executive Officer at Yarra Plenty Regional Library (Australia). Here is what they said:

1. “Library fines are good. “

Ian Anstice: Back in Victorian times, we knew that members of the public were not grown up enough or honest enough to take out a book and return it on time. This played a big part in the need for ID as well, the relative cost of a book was greater in those days and people earned less. But now, books aren’t worth multiples of an hourly salary and systems exist in most libraries to allow automatic renewals. We can also email/text the user instantly if someone else wants the book.

I think the argument against #fines has largely been won in terms of stock retention and equitableness of access. Click To Tweet

I think the argument against fines has largely been won in terms of stock retention and equitableness of access. Once one library service peered behind the Oz curtain and discovered the truth and told others about it, then that was it. But the other problem apart from inertia (and never underestimate that, in all its forms) is the loss of the income from fines. This is especially true in the UK where budgets, and income from things like DVDs, have been cut and cut again. So, the solution there is to slowly increase more groups to be exempt from fines, first toddlers then children then senior citizens. You can sell each exemption as a good news story – you like good news stories – and the cut in income won’t be so bad. Lessen your addiction gradually.

Jane Cowell: Library fines undermine one of the core principles of public libraries — the provision of free and universal access to information. There is also no evidence that overdue fines encourage meaningful compliance.

Ultimately, it is up to every Library Manager to make the case to their Board, their Councils or their Deans of the impotence of library fines and the detrimental effect they have on the community that the library serves.

It is up to every #LibraryManager to make the case to their Board of the impotence of #libraryfines and the detrimental effect they have on the #community. Click To Tweet

And if you cannot remove fines all at once take some initial steps. At my own library, we have successfully removed fines from all children’s items in the middle of a financial year with Board approval and an amended budget. We have also implemented automated renewals and a grace period, so fines are only imposed on those items on hold that users return late or keep longer than 9 weeks and 3 days. For the past month, we have also run a “Food for Fines” campaign which allows the community to reset their fines to zero with a donation of food and, this year, we collected over a ton of food for the needy.

One of the most wonderful outcomes of this campaign was all the lapsed #Library users who came back. #removelibraryfines Click To Tweet

One of the most wonderful outcomes of this campaign was all the lapsed Library users who came back. They had not been in the library for years as they were afraid of the past fines. For the 2019/2020 budget preparations, the case will be put to my Board to remove all fines. Yes, it will mean a tight budget, but I do believe an uptake in members, visits and loans will give me better evidence to prove the Library Service’s value than does a revenue line that actively turns the community away.

2. “The Dewey classification is the standard.”

Jane Cowell: Yes, it is time to let go of this white man’s classification system. And that means Library of Congress Headings as well. Yes, we do need a shelf locator and yes, we need metadata and tags to find the items on the shelf. But our systems need to be in line with the other voice systems that people are now used to.

How does #Siri locate a #book on our shelves? Natural language, crowdsourced tags could be added to our catalogues. #librarylife Click To Tweet

How does Siri locate a book on our shelves? Natural language, crowdsourced tags could be added to our catalogues. We also need to be more mindful of respecting our First Nation peoples with the descriptors utilized within our catalogues and not use derogatory European terms set in the early twentieth century to describe the material collected. Nathan Sentance on his blog Archival Decolonist has written extensively about collecting institutions and respecting the indigenous way and I urge everyone to be more aware of the racism inherent in our cataloging systems.

Our #nonfiction needs to be organized in smaller genres as more and more customers want much more curation to make it easier for them to choose a good #book. Click To Tweet

Our nonfiction needs to be organized in smaller genres as more and more customers want much more curation to make it easier for them to choose a good book in the subject field of interest — too many rows of nonfiction just turns them away as there is too much choice. Nonfiction could be a major asset for libraries, but it continues to underperform. Given that it is a best seller at the bookstores, I do think it is how libraries organize, display and promote these collections, that needs to be improved. So, Dewey needs to go and let’s genrify the nonfiction more — there must be a better way for a shelf locator to work than a Dewey number so let’s start working out how to do this better.

3. “An ID and an address are needed for joining the library.”

Ian Anstice: I remember when I started in libraries 25 years ago. We demanded two forms of identification before joining someone; something official with their address on and something official with their name on. Unsurprisingly, few people had both on them and I personally sent away probably on average of one person a day because of this. Then a new policy came in and there was no problem.  It was a mad idea and can be summarized as “trust the public to tell the truth”. We got rid of the need for ID.

We demanded two forms of identification before joining someone. Unsurprisingly, few people had both on them and I personally sent away probably on average of one person a day because of this #librarylife Click To Tweet

But then a miracle occurred. We started turning away exactly zero people interested in joining per day. Seriously, people came up to us and asked to join and we automatically said yes. And it turned out that a surprising proportion of these people were honest.

And that I thought was that. Until I started visiting other library services who told me to my face that what I know works cannot work and that my service must be in some posh magic wonderland that is unlike theirs. No, it’s not. I then queued up a short while ago at a library which I otherwise admire and the person in front of me was turned away from joining because he had only brought his passport with him. Seriously, this chap had sufficient ID with him to enter a foreign country, but it was not enough to get him a library card. He walked away. It struck me that there was something incredibly wrong with that.

if you’re still in a #library which demands ID, ask yourself; are you so distrustful of the public that you think they’re book thieves or have you got so many users you don’t need to worry?