Saturday, December 10, 2011

Librarian's Rules Doughnut

The idea from this comes partly from the Medicare Part D prescription coverage "doughnut hole" 
In short this is a problem many seniors find themselves in when they lose drug coverage because they've met a coverage limit. However, if their need is serious enough coverage will start again, thus a doughnut hole description.

How this relates to library rules:
I often hear or read or am told about rules in a library that make no sense at all. Sometimes there are rules that say things like, "No Stealing in the Library." My reaction to these is always something along the lines of, "Really, you mean otherwise it was perfectly legal to actually steal in the library?" Other times these might be rules that when I ask around for a reason the response is something like, "What the #@!* does that even mean?" If you want a few good examples of this go see Warren Graham or read his books the Black Belt Librarians.

Now for how this is a doughnut:
I hope this makes sense, but many libraries currently have a situation where there is a "doughnut hole" in that what is permissible to do in the library is caged within the rules of what one is not allowed to do at the library. This means that sometimes we have to tell patrons what they are allowed to do since we have created an artificial set of rules and expectations that do not exist in the normal sphere of what is allowed in public. This is partly what causes confusion and anger with patrons over what we understand to be basic library rules.

I understand fully that this is partly an issue with library culture, but I think a good visual always helps show the obvious shortcomings of our approach. What we need is to change our thinking from the doughnut to simply the doughnut hole. We need to think about the fewest number of rules that are needed for the library. Not only does this help staff better assist patrons, but we would have fewer run-ins with our patrons too. I know that there will always be people willing to push the limit, but why create rules and regulations to deal with those few.

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