or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

More Policy Updating

   April 29th, 2008

cellphonebooth.jpgIn addition to updating our Circulation policy, we also recently revised a few different areas of our Library Use policy.

For the last ten months or so, we've had a trial period of not enforcing our "No Cell Phones" policy, to see how much of a problem it was. During that time, we learned two things:

  1. Cell phones aren't the problem: loud ringers and loud talking are
  2. People who do get a call are usually pretty good about removing themselves to a quieter area to speak, without us asking them to

Since two people sitting at a table having an overly-loud conversation is just as disruptive as someone having an overly-loud cell phone conversation, we wanted to reword our policy to permit non-disruptive use. Our goals were:

  • Promote behavior that is courteous to other patrons
  • Provide areas and circumstances where cell phone use is allowed
  • Use wording that does not target a specific technology, so it doesn't get outdated as technology evolves

So in the end, we went from this:

Cellular phones may not be used inside library buildings.

to this:

Mobile devices such as cellular phones and hand-held computers should be set to "silent" mode. Use of a mobile device in the library should be brief and quiet. Out of respect to other library patrons, prolonged conversations should be moved to a less public area, such as the foyer, the courtyard or the parking lot.

Wordier, I know, but hopefully clear and more in line with modern patron needs (though still a bit short of a cell phone lounge).

For our Food and Drink policy, we wanted to change it to permit drinks in covered containers, so we went from this:

Food and/or drink are not permitted.

to this:

Food is permitted only in the meeting room during special events and in the outdoor seating areas. Food is not permitted in any other public area of the library. Drinks are allowed throughout the building, but only in covered containers. Care must be taken to avoid spills, and patrons should notify staff if any spills occur. Beverages and waste should be disposed of properly and containers should be recycled whenever possible.

And we expanded our Smoking Policy from this:

Smoking is not allowed.

to this:

The use of tobacco products and alcoholic beverages are not allowed.

Funny how specific you have to be when writing policies. "The use of" was added at the last minute, because without it, we realized the policy forbid people from even having cigarettes in their purse, and Library staff is certainly not going to be checking bags.

We had input from our Board of Trustees on these changes, so although they won't be officially approved until their May meeting, we've already got them posted on our website.

A patron may never notice something like this, but hopefully it'll go a long way towards making everyone's (patrons and staff) library experience better.

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4 Responses to “More Policy Updating”

  1. Michelle McLean Says:

    That’s great! We have never had a mobile phone policy and have never had a problem – always dealt with the loudness issue of the people, which more often than not had nothing to do with phones.

    How about policy wording such as:
    Please be considerate of others when using your cell phone in the library


    Food and drink are permitted – please consume with care.

  2. Leigh Anne Vrabel Says:

    Policy writing can be tricky; perhaps, if I cannot sell the lounge, I should use your fine edits as an example of what we can accomplish on a smaller scale. 🙂

  3. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Michelle: I like your shorter versions – I do tend to run on a bit. While we wanted to be permissive, we also wanted a clear line to enforce, and the longer we worked on it the longer the policy became.

    @Leigh Anne: Good luck – I’m sure every library is different (for instance, it’s interesting that Pittsburghers prefer tables to carrels; our carrels are almost constantly in use. I guess Chelmsfordians like their privacy).

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