Chesterton Tribune

Library relaxes limits on number of items checked out at one time

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After Jan. 1 Westchester Public Library patrons will get to take home more books, DVDs, CDs, audio books and electronic games at one time, and some loan periods will be extended.

The current item-limits at check-out were increased Thursday by the Library Board after an extended discussion.

The current item limit for general hardcover and paperback books is 10 but will be increased to 15. New hardcover/paperbacks and all DVDs will increase from four to five, and CDs/audio books from six to 10. In addition, DVDs and fiction videotapes will be on loan for five days instead of three.

Patrons also will be able to check out two electronic games, toys and board games instead of one.

WPL director Phil Baugher had proposed both increasing the lending limits and lowering some daily fines for overdue materials from $1 to 25 cents, but the board opted not to make the latter change at this time.

The maximum fine per item was reduced from $10 to $5 for DVDs, nonfiction videotapes and fiction videotapes. If the material isn’t returned, a replacement cost can be assessed.

Circulation at WPL’s Thomas and Hageman libraries has been dropping over recent months. Baugher said, “My objective is to get materials in the hands of people so they have access to them. I want everything off the bloody shelves all the time.”

Reducing the fines plays a part, he noted, because if one family member has them, that can block other family members from circulation privileges. In hard economic times, increasing item limits and reducing fines is one way WPL can serve its patrons, Baugher added.

He distributed a comparison of 2010 overdue fees accrued by patrons and the actual fines collected. One hundred percent of the $1,200 in fines for fiction videotapes was received but only half the $26,300 for general hardcover/paperbacks. In all WPL collected $52,543 in fines of the $78,433 assessed.

Board member Nick Tilden said the proposed reduction in daily fines carries a risk, but the overall goal of the changes is to encourage patrons to make additional visits to the library and increase circulation. Member Drew Rhed countered there isn’t an incentive to return materials on time if the fines are so low, and keeping materials out longer decreases the opportunity for other patrons to use them.

Baugher said that might happen, but patrons also might check out older titles they otherwise wouldn’t have considered.

Vandalism prompts changes

Continuing vandalism at the Library Service Center, even in the newly remodeled $33,900 main restrooms, has prompted Baugher to require groups using the LSC meeting room to check out a restroom key and microphones for the meeting-room sound system prior to each use.

Elaine Estridge, president of the Duneland Aglow Lighthouse group that meets at the LSC, told the Library Board they are thankful for the fine meeting space but recently had 30 people attending and no working restrooms or good microphone. Baugher said while the main restrooms were still being remodeled, someone spread liquid soap and urine in the lower-level restrooms so he had them closed so no injuries would occur until they were cleaned.

In addition to the key policy, Baugher said a proposal is being prepared to install security cameras throughout the LSC and at all entrances so vandals can be identified and prosecuted.

He’s also meeting with officials from the Adult Learning Center housed in the LSC about the problems that have occurred there, and to warn them that students at the center must smoke in designated areas only and not at the building entrances.

Computer space expands

New tables have been ordered for the room where the Bits and Bytes computer classes are conducted to allow more students to participate, perhaps up to 24 instead of the current 15. Additional laptops for student use also were ordered. A third weekly one-on-one open computer help session has been added.

The recent Friends of the Library book sale allowed the group to donate $5,000 to the WPL gift fund. The Kiwanis Club also donated $500 to the library.

The winners of WPL’s 2011 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest were announced, and Baugher said it hopes to become an annual event. The entrants were asked to write, in overblown prose, the first sentence of a novel they’d author.

Grand prize winner was Kevin Nevers; in the Mystery category, Jill Long; Science/Fiction, Lukas Needham; General, Annette Hansen; Romance, Gloria Bolduc; Western, Mike Thanos; Horror, Pippa Miskus; and Action/Aventure, Paloma Calvin.

Next month’s Library Board meeting will be Dec. 22 at the WPL-operated Westchester Township History Museum to honor retiring curator and library assistant director Jane Walsh-Brown.



Posted 11/11/2011