Disrupting the Library, part 4

Disruptive Suggestion #3: Cut Prices Dramatically

Prices? What could this possibly have to do with library services? Actually quite a bit.  Most libraries charge for value-added services. Perhaps interlibrary borrowing, printing, or borrowing an iPad costs the user a little extra.  Here in Europe where I currently live my public library not only charges for library membership, but also checking out DVDs and requesting books from other branches are also associated with a small transaction cost.  

But what about the most sacrosanct of all library prices, the overdue fine?  [Note to self:  anything described as “sacrosanct” is a potential area for disruptive improvements.] A few years back, while running the Access Services department of a large North American research library, I adjusted circulation policies including eliminating routine overdue fines on non-recalled general collection materials.  There is no question that this was a  disruptive change, but because of the careful study and planning that went into it, it was a change that was embraced by the library administration as well as library staff and users.  As a result these changes–including lengthening circulation periods and eliminating fines on routine overdues, interactions with library users were much more positive.  And while we did experience a drop in fine revenue income (which at that library was deposited directly into the collections budget) the loss was partially offset by increases of other overdue fines and fees which could be tweaked to fully offset the loss.

I am certainly not saying that every library needs to eliminate fines.  Rather, I’m inviting you to take a look at the sacred cows in your own workplace.  After some careful study and thinking, you may see some ways to improve the functioning of your library for users and staff alike.

This is the fourth in a seven part series that not only provides suggestions for transforming and innovating in the library, but also (and more importantly) shows how business literature is helpful in improving the services we provide.  As a case study the series refers to concepts presented in the Forbes.com article 6 Highly Profitable Ways to Disrupt Your Industry.

Read Disrupting the Library, part 5.