External Policies Development Tips & Samples
The library boards’ ultimate responsibility is to ensure and protect the reputation of the institution – best realized through the adoption of clearly written library policies. Written policies provide consistency for patrons and staff, help to resolve misunderstandings, reduce incidents of conflict and help to protect from litigation.
The MHLS Public Library Policies Development Tips & Samples is divided into four key parts:
Policy Basics | Internal Policies | External Policies | Essential Documents
Policies that impact patrons directly.
- Who is eligible to get a library card from your library? (residency, service area, age/age restrictions)
- What documentation is required to get a library card?
- Do you issue library cards to people who work within but do not reside within your library’s service area?
- Does your library card expire? If so, how often? How can it be renewed?
- Reinforce that patrons must use their own library card only.
- Replacement cards (fees, rules).
- Visitor passes for computer access.
- Temporary cards.
- Does your library allow non-residents to get cards? If so, under what conditions?
- Responsibilities of the patron who has checked out materials.
- Conditions and rules for all of the following that apply:
- loan periods
- limits to number of items checked out
- returning items (where, when, after hours, book drop, etc.)
- overdue notices (how will they be sent to patron and when?)
- non-circulating items
- claims returned
- waiving fines & fees
- damaged materials
- Reserves &/or System Holds
- Interlibrary Loans
- Does your library supply materials to other libraries and/or agencies? Under what circumstances?
- Information regarding the use of your library’s special collections and special materials
- Can library e-readers be checked out and taken off the library premises or are the considered Reference/for in-house use only?
- Who can take out your library’s e-readers?
- Does the person need to be over 18 years of age? What if a guardian will take responsibility for a minor?
- Does the person need to be your library’s patron?
- When checking out an e-reader, does that patron have to sign a waiver or agreement form?
- How long is the lending period for an e-reader?
- How much will a patron be charged if they loose the e-reader?
- Disclaimer sample: “The Library does not accept any responsibility for damage caused to patrons’ equipment as a result of using borrowed items”. — Mahopac Public Library
- Has the library adopted the Library Bill of Rights and/or the Code of Professional Ethics?
- This “policy” is more of a statement to educate patrons about New York State Civil Practice Law & Rules Section 4509: Confidentiality of Patron Records, Including Minors [http://www.nysl.nysed.gov/libdev/excerpts/cvp4509.htm]
- Please note that children have the same rights under this law as adults. Signing a minor’s card only shows acceptance of fines and fees; it does not exempt them from the law. Patrons who do not want their children’s records to remain private should check out their children’s items on their own card
- Does the library agree to comply with New York State Civil Practice Law & Rules Section 4509: Confidentiality of Patron Records?
- Does the library recognize the American Library Association’s Code of Ethics, Article III: “We protect each library users’ right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired or transmitted,” and work to follow this to the fullest extent of your abilities?
- What is the procedure staff are trained to follow if approached by a law enforcement official that presents no court order for the release of information?
- What is the procedure if the law enforcement officer does have a court order, search warrant, or subpoena?
- What type of collection are you building for the community?
- What type of materials do you by?
- What sources do you consult to help vet items for the collection?
- How do you balance your collection?
- Who is authorized to weed items from the collection? What is the chain of command when approving deletions?
- How are items selected for weeding?
- How often is the collection weeded?
- o What will happen to items once they are weeded? (Will they be sold, discarded, donated, recycled…)
- Has the library adopted or endorsed the ALA Library Bill of Rights and/or its statements on Freedom to Read and Freedom to View?
- Does the library have a collection development policy?
- What should a staff person do if approached by a patron who is challenging material in the library’s collection?
- Do you have a written form for patrons to fill out?
- What happens once the form is submitted? Is it reviewed by the director? A committee of the library board?
- How is the decisions about reconsideration of a challenged materials conveyed to the complainant?
- Is there an appeal process if the complainant disagrees with the decision?
- Who has the final say?
Public Space Policies
- Does the library have a local history collection?
- If yes, do you allow patron access to the collection? Does it circulate or is it in-house use only?
- If patron access is allowed are there special handling protocols that must be followed?
- Who decides what items will be added to the collection?
- Who decides what items will be de-accessed from the collection?
- How are weeded materials dispensed of?
- What type of experience do you hope a patron has at your library?
- What behaviors are expected to insure the maximum number of patrons have a good experience in your facility?
- Do you allow:
- cell phones
- food or drink
- animals, besides service animals
- What behavior is unacceptable?
- How do you notify patrons of what is acceptable/unacceptable?
- What should a staff person do if a patron is violating the library’s code of conduct? What should they do if a patron has violated the code more than once?
- At what age may a minor be left at the library unaccompanied by an adult?
- What will the library do if a minor is left at the library at closing time or if there is an emergency closing of the facility?
- What should staff do if an unattended child is being disruptive?
- Under what conditions is law enforcement contacted?
- How are parents made aware of this policy?
- Who is considered a “vulnerable adult”?
- What are staff expected to do if a vulnerable adult is left unattended at closing time or if there is an emergency closing of the facility?
- Under what conditions is law enforcement contact?
- How are caretakers made aware of this policy?
- For what type of situations should the incident report form be filled out?
- Who fills out the incident report form?
- To whom is the incident report form submitted?
- What steps will follow the submission of the incident report form?
- Who is allowed to use the library bulletin board / exhibit space?
- If non-library postings are allowed, do they need to receive permission first? What types of postings are acceptable?
- Who can take items down? Under what conditions?
- If non-library exhibits are encouraged, what is the process for an outside organization or individual to request the exhibit space?
- Who schedules exhibits?
- How is a complaint about an exhibit handled?
- Can items on display be for sale?
- Why does the library have a meeting room? What is the primary purpose of the meeting room? How does the use of the meeting room support the library’s mission?
- What events or programs may occur in the meeting room?
- What events or programs are prohibited, if any?
- Who may reserve the meeting room?
- Is there a fee for the use of the meeting room? If yes, at what point must the fee be paid?
- Under what circumstances is the fee waived? If a meeting is canceled would the fee be refunded? If yes, under what circumstances?
- Must an outside group have insurance to use the meeting room?
- May the meeting room be used when the library is closed? If yes, is there an additional fee to cover the cost of staff who must stay until the event is over?
- May the individual or group using the room charge a fee for people to attend the program they are offering in the library’s meeting room? If so, may fees be collected on the library’s premises?
- Will the individual or group that is renting the meeting room be expected to sign an agreement that states the terms and conditions of the usage of the room?
- Do library events take precedent?
- May the group renting your meeting room use the library’s AV equipment? Is there a fee? Are staff required to set up the equipment?
- How far in advance may a meeting room be reserved? Who is responsible for keeping the library’s Meeting Room schedule?
- Who is responsible for meeting room set up and clean up? May food and beverages be consumed in the meeting room?
- May alcohol be consumed in the library’s meeting room?
- Meeting Room Reservation Form — Does the library have one (in paper and/or online)? To whom should it be submitted?
- Does the library have a complaint form?
- Do whom will patron complaints be directed?
- What steps will be taken once the complaint form has been submitted?
- When does the board become involved?
- How is the patron notified of action taken as a result?
- Why does the library offer programming? How does it enhance the mission of the library?
- Who schedules library programming?
- Where will programs take place?
- Can programs have age restrictions?
- Do people have to pre-register for programs?
- Can outside people/organizations host programming? Any restrictions (like only non-profit)?
- Does the library have a contract that outside programmers need to sign?
- How will programs be advertised/publicized? Who will do this?
- What kinds of statistics will be kept?
- May groups (daycare, school class) attend library programs?
- Is your library handicapped accessible?
- If your library is not handicapped accessible how will you provide service to someone who cannot enter your building or a part of your collection?
- Can people tutor in the library?
- Can a tutor working for profit tutor in the library or can only volunteer tutors (like Literacy Volunteers) use the library as a tutoring space?
- Can people tutor in the library at any time during hours of operation, or only during certain times?
- Is there a sign-in sheet where tutors need to keep track of their time?
- What rooms/places can people use for tutoring? Can they set-up in any room, or only in specific places?
- Do tutors get free printing and xeroxing or must they pay for their own copies?
- Can tutors reserve space/rooms for tutoring purposes? If so, will there be a reservation form? For how long can the space be used?
- How many students can a tutor, tutor at one time/per session?
- Can the tutor advertise their services at the library?
- Will the library provide supplies, or must the student/tutor bring their own?
- What are the consequences if the tutor and/or students do not follow library rules and policies?
- Computer/Device Use:
- Who is eligible to use library-provided PCs?
- May library patrons use the library’s computers to access email, chat rooms, play games, access news groups and so forth?
- Is there a time limit?
- Is printing allowed? Is there a charge?
- Is there a limit to the number of pages that may be printed?
- Internet Use:
- How does providing Internet access support the library mission?
- What guidelines for internet use are provided?
- Does the library offer unfiltered access to the Internet? Why?
- Does the library offer filtered access to the Internet? Why?
- How would a patron request the filter be turned off?
- What should a staff person do if he or she notices a patrons not observing the Internet Use policy?
- What should a staff person do if a patrons reports that another patrons is not observing the Internet Use policy?
- Do you offer free access to a Wi-Fi internet connection?
- Do you require a valid library barcode to access the connection?
- Does a user need to sign off on your policy via the Wi-Fi portal before they are allowed on the connection?
- Do you guarantee a secure connection?
- Does staff help troubleshoot a wireless connection to a personal device?
- Does the library filter access to the internet through its Wi-Fi connection?
- Does the library support violations of federal, state or local laws through its Wi-Fi connection?
- Does the library provide wireless printing?
Other Policy Sources