StaffGuide: User Services

FAQ - Circulation Department

Must a patron present their ID Card when checking out?

Yes, every patron must have a University Id card when checking out. All patrons must have valid a ID card in order to check out library materials.  If a patron asks you to check out an item without an ID, you will have to say "NO."

If the patron says that their University ID card has been lost or stolen, refer the patron to the Campus Card Office (ID Office) on the fourth floor in the Arkansas Union, room 427.

What can a patron do if they have forgotten their ID? 

If the patron does not have their University ID, but does have a government issued photo ID (such as a driver’s license or passport) which can be used to clearly verify the patron’s identity, a one-time exception can be made.  (Please be aware of the messages on the patron’s record to make sure they have not already used their one-time exception.)  The exception can be made for all circulating items included in one transaction at the discretion of any full-time staff member of the User Experience Team.  While making this exception, politely explain to the patron the “one-time” nature of the exception policy and add the message “ID EXCEPTION USED” to the patron’s record.

Can a patron view a list of books checked out to him/her?

Yes patrons can. Patrons may want to see the items that are checked out to them. There are two ways this can be done: a staff member using Sierra may let the patron view the screen of items checked out, or the patron may request a print-out of items checked out. 

The patron can also log in to their personal library account to view items currently checked out to them and/or view a list of items that were previously checked out to them. The library cannot view items that were checked out to a particular patron once checked in, only items currently out.

Can books with no barcode be checked out?

Barcodes are required to check out items. If a book does not have a barcode, a dumb barcode must be adhered and an "on-the-fly" record created. Full time and hourly staff are trained and authorized to check out “on-the-fly” items. If unsure if an item can be checked out, ask a User Services supervisor. 

How do I clear the patron record from the screen?

CLOSE THE SCREEN when finished with a particular transaction or a series of transactions for a particular patron.  If there is a patron record on the screen, we do not want anyone else to see it.

Additionally, if a patron record is displayed (left open); an item might be inadvertently checked out to the wrong patron. If there is a check-in screen displayed, an item might be checked in by mistake, when it should be checked out.

What information must not be disclosed by Circulation Desk Staff?

 – Who has a book checked-out

 – Graduate or faculty carrel numbers (Not currently applicable)

 – Never disclose work schedules of staff or student assistants to members of the public/patrons. (take a message, be sure to include name and contact information)

 – Phone numbers or addresses of full-time, hourly, or student staff (except to authorized library staff). Any information available on public web pages is ok to give out, such as any information found on the library personnel page or campus directory, i.e. office phone numbers and UARK email.



Examples of situations and responses:

(Opportunities to learn and educate, helping to create better patrons and library employees.)

Situation:  A patron cannot find a needed book on the shelf.

Response: (Employee)

"Let me see if the item is checked out or missing.  If I can't find it, we can place a search request so we can search the stacks for you." 

(Be sure the patron is aware of the sorting area.  Also check the location for the item - FAL, CHEM, LAW, etc.)  If the item is checked out, ask if the patron would like to complete a recall or ILL request. If the item has the statues “MISSING” suggests completing an ILL request.

Situation:  A patron has complaints about overdue fines.


"We would prefer not to charge fines.  But we need some way to encourage patrons to return books on time.  Would you like to fill out a user response form with a complaint or a suggestion?" 

Option 2: Refer the patron to a User Services supervisor. If one is not currently available, offer the patron a Supervisor's work contact email and ask them to contact them to discuss the matter further.

Situation:  Patron claims to have returned a book that SIERRA and the online catalog show to be overdue and still checked out to the patron.


"I am sorry for the confusion.  Please complete this “Claims Returned” form, and I will make a printout of the item(s) record and show it to my supervisor so it can be recorded and searched.  Please be sure to continue looking for the item as well."  (Suggest to the patron to continue to search at home, office, car, other libraries, etc.)  "We will contact you if we are able to locate the item."      

Introduction & General Information

Introduction and General Information

University Libraries has installed software from Innovative Interfaces Inc., for the purpose of automating the card catalog and some of the technical and public services functions of the library.  This system is called INNOPAC.  The term OPAC stands for Online Public Access Catalog, which is the computerized version of a card catalog.  Online Catalog is the name of the University Libraries' OPAC.  It contains the online catalog of the Libraries holdings. 

Online Catalog includes:

  • Records for books, magazines, journals, newspapers, microforms, audio-visual materials, government documents, and some maps
  • Circulation and order information
  • Information about library services (hours, etc.)
  • Links to other libraries and databases

There is a "Webpac" version of Online Catalog that is linked to the University Libraries home page.  It is recommended that all circulation desk employees attend an online catalog training session if possible and/or be trained to use the online catalog.

The Circulation subsystem of INNOPAC (often referred to as SIERRA) allows for the checking out, checking in and renewal of library materials.  Other functions include the placing of holds on library materials, claims returned, and patron record maintenance.  In order to ensure that only authorized users check out books, the system retains a database file of names, addresses, university affiliations, social security numbers, and University I.D. numbers (the patron barcode) and other information for students, faculty, staff and affiliates derived from data provided by the Registrar's office and Human Resources. In addition, other records have been entered for those patrons who have paid for or have been extended library privileges. 

The Circulation Department is one of the Public Service areas in the library.  Every library employee is responsible for helping to provide the best possible service to library patrons. For many library patrons, the primary points of contact with the University Libraries are the online catalog system and the staff at the Circulation Desk; therefore, maintaining good public relations with all library patrons is an essential and important task for all employees.

Public Relations Principles: 

  • Careful and accurate use of the electronic circulation subsystem by all library employees is one of the best ways to provide good service to library patrons.  (For example: accurate inputting of "on-the-fly" item records, careful monitoring of check-out and check-in messages, etc.)  
  • Another way to provide the best service is to communicate with all patrons in a pleasant and courteous manner, even when faced with a potentially unpleasant situation.  Always be polite, friendly, helpful, and reassuring.
  • If you don't know how to do something, or how to respond to a patron with a problem, ASK YOUR SUPERVISOR FOR ASSISTANCE.
  • It is always better to refer a procedural question to your supervisor or an informational question to reference than to provide inaccurate, incomplete, or faulty information.

Protection of Circulation File Integrity and Patron Confidentiality:

Every library employee is obligated by law to help protect the integrity of Online Catalog circulation files and the confidentiality of information about library users. 

Negligent or intentional misuse of the Online Catalog circulation system by library employees is considered a serious violation of an employee's responsibilities.  Such misuse may result in disciplinary action which could take the form of immediate dismissal from employment by the university.  Misuse that results in a violation of state or federal laws and regulations may also result in civil or criminal legal action.

  • Examples of misuse of circulation functions:
    • Do not look at patron records to view personal and private data, or to see what a patron has checked out, except when requested to do so by the specific patron in question.  ALWAYS check the ID of the person requesting data BEFORE giving out information.
    • Do not let anyone except the specific patron in question look at patron records to view personal data, or to see what a patron has checked out. This includes faculty members, campus administrators, and law enforcement officials.  Any inquiries should be referred to the supervisor.
    • Do not input malicious or inappropriate data in patron or item records.
    • Do not give out authorization codes or passwords.  Do not allow non-staff to perform any SIERRA circulation transactions.
    • Do not inappropriately forgive fines or record fines as "paid", for yourself or anyone else.  Do not intentionally back-date check-in of materials for patrons in order to avoid overdue fines.

Circulation Glossary

  • Barcode -- a sticker with a unique number, and a series of vertical lines which help to identify library books and items. Barcodes are used to check out books.
  • Patron "Barcode" --the University ID # that is read in the magstripe on the back of the patron ID.
  • "Dumb" Barcode --a barcode that is not linked to a record in the system.
  • Bibliographic record --an entry in a bibliographic database (or a library catalog) which represents and describes a specific resource / item; a type of Sierra record which describes an individual item in the libraries collection. The record includes information such as author, title, publisher, and subject headings. The record does not include information about the location of the item.
  • Hold shelf -- a physical shelf designated to hold all items patrons have placed holds on, that are ready to be picked up by said patron.
  • Sierra -- the computerized library system which includes the online catalog, the circulation system, and various technical processing functions. The libraries previously used Infolinks, both are iii products.
  • Item record -- a type of Sierra record which, when linked to a patron record, makes the circulation of an item possible.  The item record contains the item's barcode number, item type, call number (only if different from call # in bib record), and circulation information.  All item records are linked to a Bibliographic record.
  • On-The-Fly -- a brief item (or item and bibliographic) record created in the Sierra system through the check-out procedure. Upon return, these items are processed by the cataloging department.
  • OPAC -- an acronym for Online Public Access Catalog. OPAC is the search only mode of the Sierra system, which is used by the public. 
  • Patron record -- a type of Sierra record, which when linked to an item record, makes the circulation of an item possible. The patron record contains the patron's barcode number, address information, items checked out, and any fines or charges accrued.
  • Pickup notice -- a notice to a patron who has placed a hold on an item notifying him/her that the item has been checked in and is available for pickup.
  • Recall notice -- a notice issued to a patron who has an item checked out, informing the patron that the item is due sooner than the patron was told at the time that the patron borrowed the item, due to a hold placed on the item by another patron.
  • Search -- a service of the circulation department to locate missing items.  A patron completes a search request at the circulation desk which is processed by a library staff member. If the item is located, it is placed on hold and the patron is notified. Holds are not placed on journals.
  • Claims Return – an item that was checked out by a patron which the patron claims to have returned; the item is still on the patron’s record. A “Claims Returned” form must be filled out and a search conducted.
  • Hold -- a service of the circulation department for patrons to request items to be placed on the hold shelf to be checked out at within the current week. A patron completes a hold request online by selecting the request button or at the circulation desk which is processed by a library staff member. When the item is located, it is placed on the hold shelf and the patron is notified. Holds are not placed on journals.
  • Recalls -- a service of the circulation department to place a hold/request an item that has been checked out by another patron. Once the item is returned, it is checked in and a hold should be fulfilled and placed on the hold shelf.