Library Patrons Get Early Holiday Gift—Automatic Renewals

By: Tim Wood

Topics: Eldredge Public Library

Eldredge Public Library Director Amy Andreasson checks in returned books. Books, DVDs and other items will now renew automatically through a new systems implemented through the Cape Libraries Automated Materials Sharing program. TIM WOOD PHOTO

CHATHAM – If you're the sort of person who often racks up hefty fines after forgetting to renew or return that library book or DVD, then you've got an early Christmas present coming your way.

Eligible material borrowed from libraries in the Cape Libraries Automated Materials Sharing—CLAMS—system will now be automatically renewed up to three times. Borrowers don't have to do anything; just return the item when they're done.

A recent upgrade of the CLAMS software system allowed the option, and at a meeting this fall representatives of the system's 35 libraries voted to implement it immediately, said Eileen Chandler, CLAMS executive director.

“It was a kind of holiday gift for our patrons,” she said. “Rather than do it on Jan. 1, we said let's go with the holiday, because people are so busy.”

Previously, library patrons had to renew material themselves, either by calling or stopping by their library, logging into their CLAMS account or responding to automated text messages. With the new system, items are automatically renewed and patrons receive a notice via email or text with the new due date.

Not all items are eligible for automatic renewals. Material on hold, ebooks and other digital material, interlibrary loans and nontraditional material are also not included in the automatic renewals, said Chandler. Items that have reached their renewal limit also cannot be renewed automatically, and patrons whose accounts are blocked for excess fines cannot participate.

“It's for regular, traditional books, DVDs, audio CDs, that type of thing,” she said. Patrons receive an email or text notifying them of the automatic renewal and the new due date.

“Patrons are thrilled” with the new system, said Eldredge Public Library Director Amy Andreasson. “I've only heard positive feedback. They're happily surprised to find items already renewed.”

The new policy is likely to reduce late fees, but the impact will be minimal, Andreasson said. “It's not a huge revenue stream for us.”

That was a concern among library directors, Chandler said, but they agreed that the added convenience was worth a decrease in late fees. The new system will not eliminate late fees entirely, she noted, since materials not returned by the due date will still incur a penalty.

All 35 CLAMS libraries on the Cape, including the Eldredge Public Library, Snow Library and Brooks Free Library, are participating in the new policy, Chandler said. The loan period for books and audio CDs is two weeks; with the new systems, patrons can automatically keep them for up to six weeks if no other patron has requested the item. DVDs are loaned for a week, and will automatically renew for up to three weeks.

Patrons with CLAMS accounts will receive renewal notices either by email or text, depending upon their preference. To sign up, go to www.clamsnet.org.

The new system shouldn't discourage people from stopping by their local library and exploring events and activities happening there, Chandler said.

“We still want people to come in and visit our libraries. We hope it will never have a negative effect on that,” she said.