Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Writing (and Righting) Library Policies

One of the first things that I did when I started in my current gig was to ask about policies and procedures. It turned out that we had these for pretty much every situation, but almost none of them had been written down. (I'll pause here for a moment to let you get over your shock, or lack of.)

After I got over being flabbergasted, I asked that everything be written down and double checked by everyone involved in enacting/enforcing the procedures and policies. That's when I finally got them, and started to work my way through the pile. The very large pile. In between other events, it has taken me up to very recently to finally review and, when necessary, rewrite these documents.

So what am I doing to celebrate this momentous occasion? I'm starting over.

I'm sure at least some of you are asking why I'd do such a thing? Why aren't I happy with the completed work of years? Well, here's a few reasons:

  • Things change. Shocker, I know, but it happens. For instance, I've already revisited the circulation and fines policy, only to find not a single mention of our board game collection. Our board game collection that we've had for 3 years now. You could also be dealing with new laws or changes in your consortium.
  • Personnel changes. It's not ideal, but sometimes you have procedures in place that are tied to specific people. When someone leaves, it's a perfect opportunity to revisit existing documentation. An example of this is that change in administration had us revisiting our inclement weather policies.
  • You change. My library should have had gender neutral bathrooms and a preferred name policy for our OPAC all along, but we didn't. We do now. And it's not that I would have said, "no! no way!" if someone had asked in the past, but I realized recently that people shouldn't have to ask. It's incumbent upon me to be leading the way with making members of our community feel comfortable and welcome in my library.
The thing is, we should all revisit our policies and procedures on a regular basis. Our goals and values may be constant, but the strategies we use to achieve those ends are (and should be) open to change. Our documentation need to be open to change as well.


  1. Do you write these policies from scratch or do you sometimes see what other libraries have done as an example?

    1. It depends on the policy. Our circulation & fines policy was from scratch, but I spent weeks reading other people's before working on our collection development policy.