As a BEST PRACTICE, I am writing to encourage all libraries to apply the Damaged status and assess a damaged charge for a damaged item instead of using the Lost status and charge. At the end of this blog post I have provided easy steps to follow.
Some libraries will mark a very damaged item as LOST to generate the full replacement price. This process takes much less time, especially if the patron is paying for the item right then and there. However, it can create some issues down the road.
When front desk staff scan a patron’s barcode at Check out they usually inform patrons about any lost items/charges on their account. If the “lost charge” is actually for a damaged item, this can lead to confusion for the patron and staff. Two things can happen, one being that upon hearing that they have a lost item, the patron says that they returned the item and the staff member marks it claims return (now the library is out their money until this situation gets noticed and remedied by the owing library). The second thing that can happen is that the staff figures out after a closer look and some sleuthing, that it really isn’t a lost item but an item that was returned damaged. Often by the time this is discerned, the staff member comes off appearing slightly incompetent, therefore undermining their credibility.
Also, If a damaged item had been marked as lost and then it later gets checked in by mistake, it will generate a refund that isn’t valid.
Finally, if the damaged item (kept by the patron) is then later returned in a bookdrop and has the status of LOST instead of damaged this too can lead to confusion and more work as well.
Therefore the best practice should be to do a little more work on the front end of things and create a manual invoice instead of just marking the item lost and potentially creating more work and confusion on the back end of things.
Suggested procedure for charging a patron for a Damaged item. [When you are the Owning Library]
- Check the item in, waive overdue fines if necessary
- Change the status of the item to Damaged and/or Withdrawn (depending on local library policy).
- Add a manual invoice to the patron’s card
- Select the “damaged” option from the TYPE drop-down menu
- In the barcode field-enter the barcode of the item (optional)
- In the description field enter the barcode, title, item type, owning library and the description of why there is a charge
- In the amount field enter the amount you are charging (typically the full cost of the item
- Add a new message to the patron’s Check Out screen account stating that the damaged charge is for TITLE, BARCODE, OWNING LIBRARY etc. (you can often just copy and paste the same thing you entered into the DESCRIPTION FIELD of the invoice you created) This should help ensure that the money gets sent to the correct library if it is paid at another location.
Erica Kersten; Madison Public Library-Pinney branch