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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.

Paying with Plastic at the Library

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, May 31, 2009

Last summer, a person from the Columbus area called the library to make a donation to the library in memory of a family member in our area.


I told the donor that a check could be mailed to the library, and I would complete the information sheets that accompany a Memorial Book donation.


After a momentary silence, the person asked if the library didn’t have some way to accept payments online?


And so began the investigation at the library of how we could accept online payments.


In talking with staff, the request to use debit/credit cards for library payments has been made with increasing frequency.


My research found that many of Ohio’s larger public libraries accept payments online and in person using debit/credit cards, but few libraries outside metropolitan areas accept such payment.


As I further researched the methods of credit card payment, what I found was that the library’s receipts are fairly small in relation to credit card payment providers, and the cost would be prohibitive.


At this point, I thought that this was another thing that my 1976 Library School had not prepared me to do many years later.


In checking with our computer center, I found that the issue of credit card payments was on the minds of many libraries.


We decided to join forces and find a way for libraries to accept credit card payments.


The answer was PayPal, the service that used to be a way to accept payments for online purchasing.


PayPal now provides a method for accepting credit card payments for places like the public library.


The Library worked with the computer center, and went online accepting credit card payments last September.


Payments would be accepted on our web page, or in person in our libraries without all of the expensive equipment usually needed.


In the first four months, we accepted almost $ 700 in payments with credit cards, the second four months found over $ 2,000 paid in this way.


Clearly, this was a need and its use is growing dramatically.


Most of the payments are for overdue fines and lost book payments, but copies and faxes have also been paid using credit cards.


Requests for genealogical information can now be accepted with credit card payments, allowing requests from across the nation to be processed and sent the same day.


In our society today, over half of payments are made online with plastic, so I guess libraries need to become part of that process.


This is from someone who still carries a flexible coin purse, and delights in handing the cashier correct change in coins to see if they know how to give the change in exact paper bills.


Yes, I have debit/credit cards, and I do use them, but being over age 50 I am still a paper money and coin person.