Ruefle, Anne E. (2011). Rules or Reading? LMC, 29(6), 34-35.
In the majority of libraries, librarians are strict about their lost book policy, not allowing students to check out a book until the old one is either found or replaced. This policy often makes some children hesitant to go to the library to check out books, for fear of the repercussions. We start to appear as the keepers of the books instead of as developers in literacy and information. In order for children to develop their reading, they must have access to rich literature. It is part of our jobs to oversee circulation, but it’s also an important part of our job to promote reading and literacy development. There will never be a shortage of books in our library, so why limit our students to just two books per checkout, or punish them for losing a book when there are so many others? If we increase our checkout limit, students will have more opportunities to get books even if they’re missing one or two. It also enables students to choose more books that look appealing. Most librarians find that there isn’t much of an increase in the number of lost books when they increase the number of books that students can check out. Rather, there is an increase in engagement as well as circulation. With practice, students will get into the habit of returning books on time. Communication with parents about book returns and responsibility is important.
I agree that a few missing books won’t damage the collection, however, the books that go missing are always the most popular. My students who have books missing are usually repeat offenders. I have an annual budget, but if the most popular books are always being lost, I will have to wait until the following year to replace them. The author suggests sending library books home as early as kindergarten, and using book bags to help as a visual reminder. This would take a complete shift in my staff’s thinking, as none of the teachers from kindergarten through second grade let their students take their books home. Those grade levels also insist on the one-book checkout policy. Most said they don’t want the students to lose the books and that it’s always been done that way. Another factor is 20% of my student population is either homeless or in transitional housing, so I don’t know if that would be too much of an added stressor on the families, having to keep track of one more belonging. This article has left me with a lot of questions. How much of an emphasis should be put on responsibility for one’s library books? How long do you wait before you consider that book a lost cause? Where do you start when more than half the staff won’t let students take books home? How do I forgive debt while also not spending a chunk of my budget replacing books?