April 21, 2017

Insider Library Tips: Checking Out Books at Your Local Library

This is an insider's guide on how to properly handle your transaction at the your local library's check-out desk. You may be surprised that I have to mention some of these things, but sadly, they do happen more often than not.

**REMEMBER we LIKE working at the library and with the public. We are here to help! BUT we also are human beings and deserve respect. Just be nice. Kindness goes a long way.

DO have your library card or driver's license handy. At most libraries you must have one or the other to check out. Also, make sure your license has your current address. If you are a child and don't have a driver's license yet you can always use a school id. It's a privacy thing.

DON'T get upset with us if you can't check out because you have no form of identification on you. We can hold the books for you at the desk if you want to come back later or tomorrow, or even the day after that.

DO gently (no throwing) hand the card to use when you get to the desk. If you need to grab it out of your wallet that is fine, but let's try not to hold up the line of people while you search your entire person. Just please don't put your card in your mouth or lick your fingers before handing it to us. That is gross.

DON'T just throw your bag full of books up on the counter and not say anything and just stand there. Say hello. (Although we usually greet you first so this should be even easier to do.)

DO unpack your bag so we can check your stuff out. We really would prefer it if we didn't have to put our hands in your personal bag. (If it is a library bag from us that is more reasonable.) It's awkward and weird. Unless you have your hands full with a baby, or for health reasons, or what have you, then that is understandable and we will help.

DON'T complain about your fines. It isn't our fault you turned your books in late or lost an item. We have late fees to encourage people to turn in their items in a timely manner so other patrons can check them out, we are not out to get you. We love seeing our library items being checked out.

DO tell us when you have had a family emergency, or were in the hospital, or something else happened, because we will be understanding and will waive your late fees. For the most part, late fees do not break libraries. Just be nice.

DO ask for us to renew your items. We can usually do this, unless the item is on hold or is brand new. We try to be accommodating even if some people may not think so.

DO check out as many books as you want! Our limit is 100 books (limits vary by library) total so feel free to check out whatever you like. We won't judge you. We usually have a fair amount of books checked out ourselves.

DON'T stand there twiddling your thumbs instead of packing up your own bag if we have a lot of items to check out for you. Please, pack your own bag if you are able. Packing up your own bag while we are checking out your items usually makes the process go a lot quicker for everyone involved. We don't normally mind doing this if you have less than 10 items, but if you have more than that you should help pack up your bag, especially when there is a long line behind you.

DO say thank you. It sill surprises me how many people don't thank me or are rude in general. Also, please don't be on your cell phone when completing a transaction.

DON'T ask us to throw away your trash. There are a lot of trash cans set up around the library. I really DON'T feel like I should throw away your trash for you. It's rude to ask me. If it is just an old library receipt that is one thing, but I really don't want to throw away your old coffee cup or food wrapper.

DO ask us what you need to get a library card or to renew your card. We will happily tell you. We love when people ask us in advance. Call us on the phone or look it up on the website if you are new in town. Don't just assume you can get a library card without proof that you live in that town. Taxes are what fund the library.


  1. Phew. OK I don't think
    I'm screwing up too badly! I did have an odd experience the other day regarding card/ID though. Last year sometime, I embarrassingly got all the way to the desk before realizing I forgot my wallet - so I had nothing with me. The woman helping me was so nice and looked me up by address even though I wasn't expecting it and assumed I couldn't check out. So then fast forward to this week, and I did it again because I had walked that day and didn't grab keys or wallet (not driving, so didn't need license and my house has a key code, so no house key with key tag on it). Anyway this was the only time this had happened since last year, so I figured I could ask to be looked up. Well, that didn't go over very well. I did not give her a hard time or anything, but I was so confused by the response I got! Thinking later, it must have been that the woman last year recognized me and made an exception because she would know if the name matched when I gave my address, though she never said it was an exception. I just sort of felt like an idiot. AND I know once or twice I told other moms how nice they were and can look you up when they mentioned forgetting their card -- so I felt doubly bad about giving out the wrong information. So anyway that was my library confusion for the week, so it's good timing to read this post!

    1. You are not alone my friend! If I recognize the patron and they are a regular or if it is a friend of mine I too would look them up and ask them some questions and check out to them even if they didn't have identification, but that is kind of rare (I work at a very large library may be a little different at a smaller one). Otherwise, we only check out to people if they have their card or ID simply because there have been issues in the past. It's complicated and all about privacy and such. Don't sweat about it! I am sure you are a great library patron. :D

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