« Barnes & Noble Sales to Benefit Madison Public Library Sequoya Branch | Main | Staffing Changes as Statute & Admin Code Responsibilities are Transferred to LRB »

More on MPL's Decision to Discontinue Holds

Following up on my post last week about Milwaukee Public Library's decision to discontinue holds on media items, see the JS Online article about the decision.

From the article:

Milwaukee Public Library Director Paula Kiely said the change will save about $100,000 in staffing under the 2008 budget...

[But] critics say the policy will disproportionately hurt the poor, disabled and elderly...

"A lot of folks in Milwaukee don't have the transportation to jump from library to library," Whitefish Bay Library Director Cathy Peterson said. "And there are branch libraries, but they have nothing compared to the big library downtown."

The situation is more complex than I had realized. Because the suburban Milwaukee libraries have no such hold limitations in place, patrons can still place holds on their materials. Critics say that this could cost suburban libraries more as Milwaukee residents turn to them for items they can't get delivered from their neighborhood branches.

And, according to JS Online, because libraries cannot distinguish between patron types, city vs suburban, this causes a "conundrum for suburban librarians, who say they could block holds for Milwaukee residents, but not without limiting access to their own residents. And, so far, none is ready to do that."

So if money is the issue, why can't MPL just impose fees for making holds requests?
Because according to the FAQ prepared by MPL, "imposing fees for this service would violate Wisconsin state statutes which maintain that public libraries cannot charge for this service." Presumably, this refers to Wisconsin Statute 43.52. More illustrative, however, is Wisconsin Attorney General Opinion 26-84 (73 Wis. Op. Atty. Gen. 87).

Coincidentally, see LibrarianInBlack for a treatise on the problem of charging for holds.

According to the FAQ, MPL welcomes all comments and suggestions to determine how best to serve customers given today's limited resources. Please complete a comment form online and/or in person at any MPL location. Customers may contact Library Director Paula Kiely at 414.286.3000.