Minutes of October 25, 2006 meeting

Georgina Alonzo, Shirley Lewis, May Chin, Antoinette Peteet, Rebecca Luo, Nita Mukherjee, Maggie Harris, Will Torres, Barry Lipinski (recorder), Joyce Watson, Holly Muller, Ann Watkins, Judy Gardner, Roger Smith, Jeff Teichmann, Rose Barbalace, Zohreh Bonianian, and Michele Tokar.
Sandy Marsh (excused) and Melanie Robinson (excused).


Because several new billing policy and procedures are being implemented, Judy Gardner and Roger Smith attended this meeting and unit supervisors were invited to participate.

1. Place Holds Recap

Barry reviewed the group's recent place hold project. The group met the October 10, 2006 deadline set by Student Financial Services. Group members examined 793 user records and placed 632 academic holds (380 undergraduate, 163 graduate, and 89 alumni). These holds were placed on barred undergraduate, graduate, and alumni users with overdue material ranging from 1/5/06 through 8/17/06. The group's work was coordinated with Student Financial Services so that current students would receive warning letters indicating the hold amount and the need to resolve the matter with the libraries prior to the November 18, 2006 deadline for Spring 2007 registration. The group's next place hold project will take place in February 2007.

2. Billing for Lost and Damaged Materials

Judy began her review of new billing documents by providing a historical perspective of RUL billing. In short, recent innovations were done to insure that long overdue items could be withdrawn from the catalog and provide selectors with the option to reorder, while the users who had not returned the long overdue items would still remain financially responsible for them. Because SIRSI's software structure did not automatically create bills, Systems' Chris Sterback, working off the recommendations of the Billing Working Group, used SIRSI billing module updates and successfully customized them to fit RUL's needs. As a result, billing has become more complicated for library staff. But the goal of removing long overdue material from the catalog while still maintaining user responsibility for the items has been accomplished.

The revised Access Services Policy Memo #5 "Billing for Lost and Damaged Material" features the following changes: 1) New statements for E-ZBorrow, ILL, and accompanying materials; 2) The bindery charge and videocassette replacement fees have been increased. An average replacement cost for E-ZBorrow and ILL books has been added; and 3) New text has been added about items that have been withdrawn from the catalog. Like E-ZBorrow and ILL items, if users cannot find and return withdrawn items, they will owe the average replacement fee. (LOSTITEM notes in user records are the only record we have of withdrawn items. These items are relatively old, and the notes lack imprint and ISBN information, making it difficult to identity exact replacements, even if available in print. We cannot, therefore, price or accept replacement copies for withdrawn items.)

Zohreh described how Reserve staff bar users and place PUB-NOTEs for reserve fines when records for the fined items need to be removed for Reserve processing.

Rebecca said that she is maintaining brief records in WorkFlows for ILL/E-ZBorrow records that have recall fines attached to them. She said that she is able to return the items to the lending institution while still maintaining the brief records. Whenever a recall fine on an ILL/E-ZBorrow item is paid, staff should email Rebecca rebluo@rci so that she can remove the record.

Jeff raised questions about replacement copies and the use of paperback prices. Barry said that the library policy to accept only new, in-print copies. Books described as "new" or "good condition" on Amazon are used copies. If a user presents a replacement copy to billing staff and that copy is rejected because it does not meet the standards, staff should place a PUB-NOTE indicating that the user has been informed that their replacement copy cannot be accepted. This will assure consistency of practice among the units. Barry recommended that Bowkers Books In Print be used online for pricing rather than Amazon, because it presents prices in a less confusing way than Amazon. Judy confirmed that the paperback price may be used when billing users for in-print replacements of the latest edition.

3. Charge/Fine Schedule

Judy explained the updates to the Charge/Fine Schedule. Nita requested that each unit get a laminated copy that would be easy for staff to handle and display to users. Jeff requested that the "binding fee" be changed to "binding/damaged" fee. He pointed out that in working with Ian Bogus, Alexander DTS, books that have been damaged by users sometimes cannot be sent out to the bindery for various reasons. Jeff asserted that he felt the user should still be fined for the damage caused to the book and for the work done by staff to assess the damage. The group reached a consensus on this and Judy said she would update the document to read "binding/damaged."

Rose and Joyce raised questions about items with accompanying materials. It is library policy that a user who loses one part of an item with accompanying materials will be responsible for replacing the item in its entirety. When staff check out materials with missing parts to users, the book should be stamped damaged with a note saying a part was missing on charge, date, initials, library. A note should also be added to the item record indicating what is missing. Joyce questioned how Dana should handle cases when the user only wants to take out a book but not the accompanying part, usually a disc. Judy recommended that Dana combine records for these items and not keep them in two places.

4. Items Not Found in IRIS

Nita and Judy worked together to produce the new document "Items Not Found in IRIS: Procedures for Circulation and Billing Staff." This document describes steps to take when you encounter "Item Not Found in Catalog" error messages in WorkFlows. For front-line circulation desk staff, it's relatively straightforward. When charging items out, follow circ-on-the-fly procedures. When discharging items, set them aside for billing staffs or their back-ups to investigate and process. For billing staffs, the procedures are new. They include: how to search for LOSTITEM notes of items "not found in catalog;" how to forward these items to DTS or TS staff; how to accept payment for LOSTITEM notes items, and when to delete LOSTITEM notes and LONGOVD bills. Judy led a step-by-step review of the procedures. She emphasized the point made on page 3 of the document: Billing staff should completely follow the procedures for handling "items not found in catalog" for all items that are returned. Do not forward "items not found in catalog" to another library's billing person to process.

As a result of discussing these procedures, a decision was reached by the group to change one step in the document. The document called for billing staff to update LOSTITEM notes to LOSTPAID notes when user paid for these items, inserting at the beginning of the note, the date of payment (YYYYMMDD, Payment Received, staff initials, and unit. The rationale for this step was to enable refunds for users should they find the items within 6 months of payment. Antoinette questioned this step, saying that that we seemed to be taking on a lot of additional work for something that 1) is unlikely to happen often, and 2) should not be eligible for refund. She pointed out, along with Shirley and others, that these items in many cases would already be 2-4 years overdue prior to their payment. Why then should they even be eligible for refund? The group agreed that this step should be eliminated. Instead, when payment is accepted, we will inform the patron that the items are not eligible for refund, and we will note this on the receipt issued to the patron. Upon payment, then, staff will delete the LOSTITEM note.

Jeff reminded the group that staff, when seeing the error message "Item not found in catalog," should always first try adding an extra "0" to the barcode, to see if that is the reason for the message.

Georgina recommended that Systems do a cleanup of LOSTITEM notes for materials that have already been paid for. Barry remarked that Chris has such a cleanup planned.

As a result of the helpful group discussion, Judy will return to the new billing documents and make the suggested revisions.

5. Delinquent Account and Collection Agency Policy and Procedures

Because of both time remaining and the amount of material already covered in the meeting, Judy decided to give a brief overview of what is planned to be initiated soon, as described in her document Delinquent Account and Collection Agency Policy and Procedures. The first group of barred users to receive 30-day warning letters, as recommended by the University Delinquent Accounts Office, will be current University employees. Judy asked that the meeting attendees go over the document and share with her any questions, concerns, or suggestions for revision.

The group briefly opened up a discussion on the pros and cons of including recall fines in academic hold totals, something currently not done. The issue was raised because more users are paying library bills predicated on academic hold amounts directly at the University Cashiers Office. Also, with online credit card payment coming hopefully within a year, we would want users to know what totals they need to pay to satisfy all financial obligations related to library materials. At this point, the group agreed, we will continue to place academic holds only on long overdue material ($102 per book) and not include recall fines in the hold amount.

Next Meeting: Thursday, November 30, 2006, 2:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at Kilmer Media Classroom, with videoconferencing to Dana (Special Collections Room) and Robeson (Robeson Library Conference Room 290).

URL: http://www.libraries.rutgers.edu/rul/staff/groups/billing_group/minutes/billing_group_min_06_10_25.shtml
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