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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

The Library Elf

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, March 30, 2008

An "Elf" is a small, often mischievous creature.


Actually, my office is the home to a porcelain elf, which watches me every day as I do my duties as a librarian.


He belonged to my wife's grandmother, where he laid on the carpet observing the household for many years.


Today, he watches the comings and goings of the library office with a pleasant smile.


There is another Library Elf who is a web-based e-mail tool for library users to keep track of their library borrowings.


Library checkouts have come a long way from the days of checkout cards, and book stamping machines, and post cards for overdues.


Today, everything is bar code-based, online, and searchable by the user from home computers.


Now, library borrowers can sign-up at to take it a step further.


That Library Elf is like a personal assistant, whose task is to keep track of what you have on loan from the library.


Our library system has registered with Library Elf to allow our system to interact with him to provide you help with your borrowings.


Library Elf is ideal for families with multiple library cards, or for individuals with library cards from different libraries.


Users can consolidate their library accounts into one, and receive e-mail notices before things come due, overdue, or when holds are ready for pick-up at the library.


Our system will continue to perform its duties, which includes e-mail notifications; Library Elf simply organizes the process further.


A sample screen on Library Elf shows a calendar of two months with dates circled when things from the library are due.


It also has lists of items ready to be picked up at the library, items that are overdue, items due within the next 3 days, items not yet due, and items you have placed on hold and where you stand in the list waiting for the item.


This way you can renew something that you are still using, or return items before they become overdue.


So, why would the library promote a system that could reduce our income by avoiding overdue fines?


Wow, that is a good question!


Actually, any time the library can improve customer service, and facilitate the return of items borrowed, everyone wins.


In 36 years of working in a library, I have heard every possible reason and excuse for not returning something to the library.


The shock factor takes place when the replacement invoice arrives.


"They are just library books" is the common response from a library user.  Four books not returned can easily surpass $ 100 in replacement costs.


Under the bed, under the couch, or in the trunk of the car are the likely spots for lost library books.


"My friend returned it for me" is the typical friendship-breaker explanation to the library staff.


Let the Library Elf help you manage your library borrowings.