CUNY Library Loan Period Rollback

After influential CUNY librarians objected to the longer book loan periods embraced by the Circulation Committee in November 2013, the committee revised its recommendations drastically downward. The committee’s new recommended loan periods for faculty and doctoral students are 56 days, only 14 days longer than present. Master’s student loans double under the new recommendations from 21 to 42 days, and undergraduates gain 7 days for a total of 28. All revisions fall short of the 120 day loans for grads, docs, and faculty recommended by the Graduate Council Library Committee, the Doctoral Student’s Council, and MALS program students and faculty.

Revised March 2014 Library Loan Recommendations

Patron Status Recommendation
Undergraduate Students Four (4) weeks
Graduates Students Six (6) weeks
Doctoral Students Eight (8) weeks
Staff Four (4) weeks
Local Faculty Eight (8) weeks – minimum
CUNY-wide Faculty Eight (8) weeks

Recommendations call for CUNY library book loans to remain far more controlled and curtailed than they are by other academic libraries. The downwardly revised recommended CUNY loan periods are much briefer than those offered faculty and grads at  NYPL 120 days, SUNY 155+ days, NYU 120 days, and Columbia 155 days.

Revised recommendations call for CUNY libraries to continue to set individual renewal policies. City Tech and City College now offer no (zero!) renewals to doctoral students; most CUNY libraries offer 1, 2, or 3 renewals only. CUNY researchers often return books not because they are finished with them or because another borrower needs them, but because exceptionally brief loan and renewal options are exhausted, and fines are imposed.

CUNY libraries share a catalog and a circulation system and consortial support for CUNY grads and faculty. Unlike SUNY libraries with individual lending policies, CUNY library policies are tied together because borrower statuses are classed together in the CUNY catalog. Individual CUNY libraries cannot determine loan periods for undergrads, grads, doctoral students, and non-local faculty on their own.

Conan the Librarian

Conan the Librarian

Advocates for CUNY’s very brief loans assert that CUNY undergraduates rely heavily on shelf browsing to find books, a claim unsupported by cited research. Though only 1% of CUNY library collections go to  faculty and grad borrowers each year through intra-CUNY CLICS lending, this 1% rate of borrowing triggers inordinate inverted concern. Statistics showing reliably low rates of graduate and faculty borrowing inexplicably fail to alleviate fear that doctoral students and faculty will evacuate books from CUNY library shelves. Based on the ratio of loans to the number of loanable books, it is safe to say that 90% or more of CUNY library books never leave the shelves over the course of a year. In addition, more and more e-books are instantly available but not browsable at all. Librarians teach students to find what they need, even if they must go online to do it.

The circulation committee’s previous more generous proposals were discussed and debated by the Council of Chiefs February 10, after which Council Chair Kenneth Schlesinger (Lehman) directed the proposal back to the Circulation Committee for an overhaul. The new downwardly revised package of proposals will be considered April 7 at the Council of Chief Librarians meeting, and they will be ultimately parsed and implemented by the University Dean for Libraries and Information ResourcesContact the Dean and the Chief Librarians to ask for thorough consideration for the research needs of CUNY faculty and graduate borrowers.

About the Author

Prof. Polly Thistlethwaite is CUNY's Interim University Dean for Library Services.