Update those Library Policy pages!

This morning, I’ve been watching a small PR fiasco unfold. According to CBS Boston, Charlton Public Library sent a police officer to collect overdue books from a 5-year-old. The story also made the Drudge Report and the UK’s Daily Mail – gotta love that international media attention!

OK – there’s obviously a LOT more to the story that was left out. For example, there’s no mention in the article of the reporter actually talking to library staff, who could have filled in the details (they DID talk to the library – it’s mentioned in the video version of the story).

Via Facebook, the library filled in some pertinent details (i.e., what actually happened) after getting some nasty Facebook comments:

“Library materials are purchased using taxpayer dollars. We feel as library staff that it is our duty to safeguard those tax dollars. We have asked the Charlton Police Dept. to help recover items from those patrons who have been delinquent in returning materials for more than 6 months and who have at least $100 worth of unreturned materials at their homes. We follow our standard procedure of phonecalls and/or emails to remind patrons to return their materials. A bill is sent out once an item is overdue for a month. Sending out the police is a last resort effort to get back some of our most valuable items. The police visited 13 families whose outstanding balance totaled $2634.00 in library materials.” (from Charlton Public Library’s Facebook Page – also just added to the main page of the library’s website).

So good for them for using Facebook and their website to quickly respond to the story.

After I read the article, I first visited the library’s website and tried to find their fines and fees policy. Here’s all I found (until they updated the site and their Facebook Page):

  • Print and audio materials accrue a  10 cent daily overdue fine with a $3.00 maximum fine per item.
  • Dvd and video items accrue a $1.00 daily overdue fine with a maximum fine of $5.00 per item.
  • Patrons are responsible for the repair or replacement of lost or damaged items. Failure to pay fines or damages will result in the loss of borrowing privileges at C/WMARS libraries.
  • from their Library Services page

What’s missing here? Any information about the process, what happens if you don’t pay your late fees, etc – other than the “loss of borrowing privileges” info. That sounds VERY different than explanation from the library quoted above, doesn’t it?

How can this be improved? Simple – if you have a policy, a guideline, a process for fines and fees (or for anything else, for that matter) – put it on your website. Probably in a Library Policies section, or a link to appropriate places on your site. For example, the late fee policy/process could be added to your “get a library card” page.

Then, when the media calls asking why you’re sending police to a poor 5 year old child, you can explain … but you can also email them a link to the appropriate policy and process.

Question – if one of your library customers had a policy-type question, could that question be answered using your  website?

Update button by Bigstock

Community Discussion Guidelines for our Digital Branch

Remember my post from last summer about comments at my library’s website? Here’s a follow-up post to that earlier discussion.

Because of all those comments (some of which were mean, snarky and personal), we needed a good, fair, “official” way to deal with them. So I started poking around other websites with commenting policies and guidelines, and came up with a library version of commenting guidelines.

I ended up adapting ours from NPR’s Community Discussion Rules. Want to see a whole bunch of these? Check out  the Online Database of Social Media Policies – good stuff.

Our discussion guidelines are posted (via a link) beside the comment box on each page of our website. Here’s what it says:

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Community Discussion Guidelines:

Here are some guidelines to posting comments and content at Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library’s digital branch. The goal? To help you have fun!

We encourage comments:

  • We want to hear from you! Please post comments, questions, and other thoughts … as you think them. That’s what we’re here for.
  • Stay on Topic – stick to the subject and issues raised by the post, not the person who made it or others that commented on it
  • Think before you press the publish button. Remember that this is a public forum, and your words will be archived on this site and available for anyone to find for a long time – the web has a very long memory.
  • If you can’t be polite, don’t say it. Respect is the name of the game.  You must respect your fellow commenters.

Some Don’ts:

  • Don’t post copyrighted materials (articles, videos, audio, etc) that you do not have permission to reproduce or distribute.
  • Don’t post content that installs viruses, worms, malware, trojans, etc.
  • Don’t post content that is obscene, libelous, defamatory or hateful
  • Don’t post spam
  • Don’t post personal, real-life information such as home addresses and home phone numbers.

What will we do?

  • We’ll respond to comments, answer questions, and provide suggestions as appropriate.
  • Sometimes we’ll join a comment thread to help focus (or refocus) the discussion, or to get people talking.
  • If you break one of the guidelines above (or come close to it), we’ll email you and ask you to stop. We might also post a reminder to the discussion. If it continues, we will delete your comments and block you from posting.
  • We will remove any posts that are obviously commercial or otherwise spam-like.
  • We will remove content that puts us in legal jeopardy, such as potentially libelous or defamatory postings, or material posted in potential breach of copyright.
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Does your library or organization have similar policies or guidelines? Drop a link to them in the comments!

Tweetworthy Twitter Policy

I just read A Twitterable Twitter Policy, by Jay Shepherd, who writes the Gruntled Employees blog (looks like a great blog for managers).

The article includes a brief intro to Twitter, then Jay talks about employee policies and Twitter use. The best part of the article is this – he created a Twitter policy using only 140 characters (so it’s Twitterable):

Be professional, kind, discreet, authentic. Represent us well. Remember that you can’t control it once you hit “update.”

Good stuff to remember when posting ANYTHING on the web, I think!