Information and the Future

This is the blog of the Information and the Future task force of the Rolfing Library at Trinity International University. The IF task force exists to explore the role of libraries in the future of Christian higher education.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

What's your patron rating?

I started wondering today... What if we could rate patrons? I was thinking about the common practice in e-commerce (eBay for example) of rating sellers based on how they perform their half of a transaction and then thought, what if we could rate patrons based on their interactions with the library. For example checking out books and returning them on time would be good. Returning them late would be bad. It could work like a credit rating (which is kind of what it would be) and be displayed as part of a patron's record.

I don't think this is a new idea. I've heard of libraries who have assign merit points instead of collecting fines. I'm sure every circulation worker has at least had a mental list of preferred and not problem patrons.

Still, I found it intriguing to think about using our circulation and ILL system to generate a patron rating and then use that rating to determine library privilege such as length of loan period and number of books one would be allowed to take out from the library. This would give people incentive (both positive and negative) to be a good library citizen and hopefully reduce the need to fine people. Thus a beginning undergrad might be allowed 20 books at a time for two weeks and then those numbers could change as she builds up a track record.

This same information could potentially could be used by other libraries to determine if they want to fill an interlibrary loan request.

I think the advantages of this type of system are that it allows us to limit access to those who abuse it and reward those who are responsible. It also is more just then fines which are more or less severe depending on the financial status of the patron.

Disadvantages include concerns that a few overdue or lost books could become part of your "permanent" record. Their might be other privacy concerns as well including the eerie feeling that everything I do is being tracked. Also would have to work to ensure that one could not manipulate their rating by checking out and returning books for no other purpose than to improve their rating.

What do you think?


  • At 1:26 PM, Blogger kc said…

    Quite honestly i'm much more interested in the library's rating with patrons than vice versa. Perhaps we could do a survey just with an eye toward improving our service rather than simply because reaccreditation is approaching. Something like removing the log from our own eye before we start trying to remove the specks from our patrons'.

  • At 10:15 AM, Blogger arcee said…

    Hmm, in theory I think it would be fun to try out as an experiment. In practice, I fear that would feel quite unfair to students. From a librarian perspective, yes, it would be nice to reward the good kids and reform the bad kids. However, from a student perspective, that could come off as favoritism and I can imagine our circ supervisor being inundated with complains from the repeat offenders.
    I like the notion of the library being a place where patrons can come as they are. No pressure. No real expectations to live up to. Just free to express themselves (within the confines of library rules, of course). I suspect the 'patron rating' might feel more like judgment than incentive or privelege, even if it would be our intention to have a positive impact.


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