Charting how bad DivLib borrowers are

Percentage of overdue books across School of Arts & Humanities Libraries, 1 day in February 2017

Percentage of overdue books across School of Arts & Humanities Libraries, 1 day in February 2017

I apologise for this negative post title, but I’m sure that you will forgive me once you have read this post.

Nearly 2 weeks ago, it was a frosty but pleasant Tuesday (just as I hear you wonder), I received our daily email with circulation statistics, and thought,

Wow! Our borrowers are bad! So many overdue books in the middle of term!

Then it dawned on me that I didn’t have any good data for comparison (and though I have worked at the Marshall Library and Pendlebury Library, I cannot remember much about the circulation stats there!). I asked my colleagues of the other 7 libraries in the School of Arts and Humanities whether they could help me, to put the number of DivLib overdue books into perspective.

DivLib is Library A in the above chart, so you can see that borrowers of our library are neither the “worst”, when it comes to having overdue books, nor are they the “best” when it comes to renewing or returning books before they are due. In fact, only 2 other libraries in the SAH have a lower overdue ratio to total books borrowed. So the borrowers at DivLib are actually not that “bad” at all, at returning or renewing their books on time!

There are, of course, a lot of issues with the comparison I have made above. First, one could assume that the total number of books borrowed at each library, co-relates with the number of overdue items (i.e. the Library with the highest books being borrowed, has the highest number of overdue items); this is not completely the case, though there is a tendency for some libraries with higher number of total loans to have a higher overdue ratio. Second, surely the total number of active (potential) borrowers should mean that a library having more borrowers is “more at risk” of having more overdue books. Third, each library has different fines regimes, and deals with overdues differently – however, the correlation between all these three factors, and how they impact isn’t clear to me (not least as this would go way beyond a simple data gathering exercise!)

However, what is clear, is the advice I can give to borrowers who repeatedly have overdue books, and therefore accrue fines. So here are my top tips for avoiding fines:

  1. Check your emails regularly! Like every library in Cambridge: we email out a reminder that the book will be due, one day before it is due the following day (30 minutes before the Library closes on that day). We suggest that if you don’t check your @cam email address, that you set up messages to be forwarded from there to an email address of your choice. We also send out overdue notices – how some people can ignore such emails for weeks is a bit surprising to us.
  2. Are you using a Google Calendar? Pull your loans into your calendar! The instructions are on under “Loans Feeds”,
  3. When not reading a book, store all your borrowed books in one place (on a shelf in your room, if possible); if this is manageable: keep them in order of due date (from the ones due sooner to the ones due later); if you fancy being a librarian, have different sequences for books from different libraries! (This piece of advice seems patronising trivial, but the number of times I have heard from a reader that they had misplaced the book, and forgotten about it, and then found it after looking in every possible space they use for reading books…)
  4. Renew often, and at a set time. If you are not overly bothered about paying fines (if that is the case can we please ask you to donate some money to the librarians’ biscuit fund?), I would recommend that you renew all your books once a week. If you are not keen to accrue fines at the DivLib: we currently offer 50 renewals, so why not renew your books every morning, say, after you had breakfast? The advantage of renewing in the morning is: if a book cannot be renewed, you have most of the day (well, until we close!) to return the book.
  5. Return any books you don’t need any more!  This seems simple, but often people tell me that they had finished a book, but just forgot to return it.
  6. Return them – early – via the Sidgbox, especially when the DivLib is closed. (Please note: the book will only be discharged, when we are next open: say, you return a book which is due on Monday, 30 minutes before we will close the Library, on the previous Saturday, the book will be discharged on Monday morning).
  7. Use “only” ebooks provided by your lovely University, and what has been provided on Moodle. (Please don’t blame us, though, if the results of your work aren’t that good!)
  8. The “nuclear option”: do not borrow any books from libraries, and read them in the library! You might think that this is extreme, but I know of at least 2 undergraduate students who have been doing this.

Have you got any good hints how to avoid overdue books, and fines at DivLib? Please share your hints below as a comment.



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