Library Policies: Public Service Parameters

Purpose of Parameters:

  1. To provide clarification and standardization of service to the public and to assist staff in providing equitable service from all facilities.
  2. To outline for library customers the limitations involved in delivering services so that expectations can be realistic.


  1. Telephone Reference:  Telephone Reference service is limited to information that is readily available, does not require extensive searching, and which may be accurately and effectively imparted over the phone. If an answer cannot be found in 3 minutes the customer will be called back as soon as possible. Limit of 3 requests: Staff will look up 3 addresses, 3 titles, or answer 3 questions at a time. The customer should wait until all pending questions have been answered before asking any other questions.
  2. Customer priority: In-person customers have priority. If an in-person customer and a phone customer are competing for attention, staff will ask the phone customer to hold. If it will take more than about 2-3 minutes, staff will take the name and phone number and call the customer back.
  3. Newspaper searches: If the request is for an obituary, classified ad, etc. and the customer does not know the exact date, staff will search 5 dates of newspapers.
  4. Reading information: When a portion of a reference book or other material is to be read to the customer, a limit of 2 paragraphs should generally be set. If more information is needed, it will be suggested that copies be made for 10 cents per page.
  5. Copying and printing: Staff will copy and/or print up to 20 pages per day for a customer. Charges of 10 cents per page will be added to the customer’s account if payment cannot be made at the time of service. Copies can be picked up, mailed or faxed. If the customer does not have a library card, service will be limited to three pages. The charge and remittance instructions will be indicated on the cover sheet. Anyone owing more than $10.00 will not be eligible for this service.
  6. Personal care assistance: Staff are not permitted to act as personal attendants for customers unable or unwilling to perform routine tasks, including personal tasks, for themselves. Staff will show customers how to use equipment, but customers are expected to physically use the equipment themselves, or have someone with them who can perform such tasks. Staff will not compose reports, letters, resumes, etc. for customers.
  7. Reference questions: Staff will assist a customer in locating information and resources, but interpretation and usage of such information and resources is left up to the customer. If staff are unable to fully answer an in-person customer’s questions in about 10-15 minutes, the question will be written down and the customer will be called back with the requested information. Due to the specialized nature of the reference questions, staff are limited in the amount of service they are able to provide on the following topics: 
    • Antiques, Art Work and Collectibles: Generally customers should be encouraged to visit the library if they want information concerning vintage or price of an antique, work of art, or collectible. Staff would then be able to instruct them in the use of various sources to check for values of plates, chairs, books, etc. It is possible over the phone to give the value of some items such as coins or stamps if the customer can specify the exact date and condition of the item.
    • Medical and Legal Questions: Staff will not give legal or medical advice or interpretation. Staff will inform customers of the available resources and will instruct in the use of the resources. Telephone reference will be limited to providing brief information from standard sources. The information will be read verbatim and the source given. Staff are unable to interpret any medical or legal information that is read over the phone. The same criteria listed in Parameter #4 applies to reading medical and legal information.
    • Mathematical and Technical calculations: Staff will provide formulas or equations needed to do a computation if found from an authoritative source. Staff must not do the computation since there may be a risk of error or misunderstanding.
    • Genealogy: Staff will show customers where different types of materials are located, how basic reference tools are used, and how to use equipment. Beginners interested in learning about genealogy research will be referred to introductory books on researching family history in the circulating collection and to the Eastern Washington Genealogical Society. Customers with more advanced research questions will be referred to the appropriate books within the collection or to the Eastern Washington Genealogical Society.
    • Tax Information: Staff will not give tax advice. Customers will be referred to the volunteer tax assistance programs or the IRS.
  8. Computer assistance: Staff can only give brief individual assistance to customers using the library computers or their own personal equipment. Those customers who need more in-depth instruction are encouraged to attend the appropriate training class offered by the Library or to consult instructional materials owned by the Library.