The Tech from the Non-Techie blog featured an interesting article, “Educate Don’t Alienate,” giving voice to something I think many library staff feel: charging for printing and setting up complicated print management systems causes grief for the customer, grief for the library, and does it really save the library any money? The author, Beth Tribe, proposes not charging for printing and instead educating the rare offender who prints out his/her entire thesis eight times.
Philosophically, I am a proponent for eliminating all charges in libraries whenever possible, including late fines, print charges, copy charges, and not investing in expensive systems to track these minor charges and alienate our customers in doing so. I understand the arguments that some library services are “extra,” or “not basic,” and that taxpayer money shouldn’t go to Mr. Public’s 800 color copies of his retirement party flyer or 17 late children’s books. I also understand that these are “revenue streams” that might be hard to convince a city or county governing body to abandon. At the same time, I argue that the investment of staff time, technology infrastructure created to handle these small charges, and bad customer service (including people who just don’t ever come back to the library) outweighs the money we potentially make back.
If you’re thinking about this yourself, just lay out a quick and simple cost-comparsion between resources gained from each of these services at your library and resources spent. You might be surprised to find that the difference in what you’re gaining with the current method isn’t as big as you thought it was.
OK, now everybody–argue with me