StaffGuide: User Services

How to Check In/Out Using Sierra


Login / Logoff – Our library system SIERRA will automatically login when you double click on the Sierra desktop shortcut.  To logoff, simply exit. 

To log in to SIERRA: Click on the SIERRA icon on the computer desktop.  SIERRA will log in with a generic username when accessed from the Main or East Circulation desks.

Logging Off or Exiting SIERRA
To exit (logoff) SIERRA, from the File menu, select Exit, or from the Windows icons at the top right of the main SIERRA window, select the exit button (the x on the right). When you exit by selecting the exit button, SIERRA prompts you to confirm before closing. If you are editing a record when you close SIERRA, the system prompts you to save or cancel your changes.

SIERRA Main Window                                                                               

The 1.title bar of the main window displays "Sierra – University of Arkansas Libraries – Main Circ”.  Below the title bar, the bar contains the available menus in SIERRA. The current Circulation mode is indicated below the menu bar to the right 3.FUNCTION menu. In the above example, the current Circulation mode is "Check Out (Circulation Desk)."   The 4.navigation bar contains tabs for viewing different pages of the current Circulation mode; the tab representing the current page mode is highlighted.  The 5.toolbar icons display the actions you can perform in the current mode or with the current record.  The remaining components that display in the SIERRA main window depend on the current Circulation mode. For example, in the above display, the current Circulation mode is “Check Out (Circulation Desk)". The displayed components enable you to view a Patron record, Check Out, view Holds, Fines, and Check In patron items.


  • Circulation
    • Check Out (Circulation Desk)
    • Allows staff to perform most circulation front desk activities. When you retrieve a Patron record in “Circulation Desk" mode, the circulation information for the patron displays in the upper half of the SIERRA window.  In "Circulation Desk" mode, you can perform patron-specific circulation functions (check out items to a patron, renew a patron's items, place a hold for the patron (authorization required), check in a patron's items, collect fines, etc.).
  • Check-In (No Patron)
  • Checks items back in to the library system. Only the patron name displays in this mode (to view more complete patron information while checking in a specific item, use the "Circulation Desk" mode with the Check In tab).
  • Search / Holds
  • This mode is used for the maintenance of holds (authorized staff only) on library materials; it also allows you to view records in the electronic catalog, and, if authorized, will allow editing of item records.  This mode can be used to search the catalog by call number, title, barcode, etc., although it will not allow searching for reserve items. 

The other Circulation modes: Course Reserves, Count Use, View Holds, Clear Hold Shelf and Merge Duplicate Patron Records: some of these modes require password authorization.

Patron Records

Retrieving a patron record
To perform circulation functions for a patron (e.g., check out an item, renew an item, place a hold), you must first retrieve the patron's record from SIERRA’s database. There are three ways that you can retrieve a Patron record in SIERRA:

  • Scan the patron's barcode by scanning the patron I.D. card
  • Search the SIERRA’s database for the Patron record using patron’s name
  • Choose the patron from the Recent Patrons submenu (see further below).

Below is an example of a patron record.

When you retrieve a Patron record in “Circulation Desk" mode, SIERRA displays brief information from the Patron record in the top half of the main window.  Below the brief Patron record display, SIERRA displays tabs that contain circulation-specific information for the current patron (see the discussion of Patron information tabs).

As an alternative to scanning a patron's barcode, you can retrieve a Patron’s record by searching other indexed fields in the patron record (i.e. name, ID#).

  1. Make sure the cursor (the blinking vertical bar) is inside the Scan Barcode box: If the cursor is not inside the Scan Barcode box, click inside the box.
  2. Each patron must have a valid University ID card in order to check out university library materials; a patron is allowed one ID exception (see detailed policy below).  If the patron’s University ID card will not scan, the ID number (or “Patron Barcode”) can be keyed into the Search box. The patron can also be searched for by using the index tag of an indexed field from the Patron record (for example, 'n' for the patron's name). Then type the search criteria.
  3. Begin the search by pressing Enter or choosing the Search button. If only one Patron record matches the search, SIERRA retrieves that record. However, if there are multiple Patron records that match your search criteria (or no matching records), SIERRA replaces the bottom half of the main window with a Patron browse display (see the discussion of Browse displays). Choose one of the Patron records from this browse display (or perform another search).

Occasionally it may be necessary to return to a Patron record that you have recently retrieved during the current session.  SIERRA allows you to do this by choosing the Recent Patrons option from the File menu. In the Recent Patrons submenu, SIERRA displays the names of the most recent patrons that were accessed during the current session. To retrieve a Patron record from the submenu, choose the corresponding menu option.

Patron Information Tabs

The left of the main window consists of patron information tabs. These tabs display circulation-specific information for the current patron. Each tab contains a table of information. For example, the table in the Checked-Out Items tab displays the items currently checked out to the patron. The corresponding tab will display in red if there are overdue items, fines, holds, or other conditions. Example image follows.

To view a tab, click on the tab or choose the corresponding menu option from the Go menu.


Check Out

Checking Out an Item (Books, Reserves, Storage, etc.)

Checking out an item links a patron record to an item record.  It involves retrieving a patron record (scanning in a patron barcode (swiping patron ID) or searching for a patron) and scanning in the item barcode (or retrieving the item record).

Forgotten ID and ID Exception

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.

If the patron’s University ID has deteriorated and will not scan, the ID number may be keyed in manually. The patron, however, should be instructed to obtain a new ID card (or have theirs reprogrammed) at the ID Office on the fourth floor of the Arkansas Union, room 427.

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 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.

If a patron has no ID, has already used their ID exception, or prefers not to use their exception, offer to hold the item for them on the 48-hour hold shelf so they can have time to retrieve their ID.

Please note: For ILL materials, either a University ID or a government-issued photo ID is always acceptable, and the use of a non-University ID for ILL materials does not apply to the one-time exception policy outlined above.

NOTE: If an item does not have a barcode, see procedures related to the creation of on-the-fly item records or refer the item to a full-time staff member/supervisor.

SIERRA Circulation will check to see if the patron is allowed to circulate the item before completing the transaction. And, as you process each item, it will display in the main body of the patron record showing the barcode, title, and date due.  Note: The number of items ‘checked out’ will not change until the session is finished and you move to another function.

When you unknowingly attempt to check out a non-circulating item to some patrons the system alerts you with a message.  Only full-time employees with sierra login credentials may override such items. DO NOT override unless you are told to do so by a supervisor or department in charge of the item. For special materials such as Maps, Reference materials, Government documents, and U.S. Documents special permission may be needed to check out.

Checking out Inter-Library Loan (ILL) items

ILL items check out using a different system by the ILL department. For the patron to pick up an ILL item at the main circulation desk, they must first present a form of photo ID: either their University ID or government-issued ID. Once the patron has presented a valid I.D. a circulation employee locates the item(s) from the hold shelf. The patron must then sign and date each slip for the items being picked up. The completed slips are then placed in the basket on the ILL return cart, located to the back of the holds shelf. Note: any changes to ILL items have to be handled by the ILL department.

Changing the Due Date

SIERRA allows you to override the system-calculated due date for the current check-out.  Immediately after checking out the item, choose the Change Due Date button. SIERRA displays the "Select Date" dialog allows you to choose a date from a calendar.  NOTE: SIERRA will not allow you to enter a date on which the library is closed.   

Choose a date by double-clicking on a day and then choose OK.  The message will display that the due date was altered.

To close the dialog without modifying the date, choose Cancel (or Esc).

Renewing an item

To renew one or more of the items from a patron record:

1. If the patron's record is not already displaying, retrieve it in the Circulation Desk mode.

2. Click on the Checked-Out Items tab.

In the Checked-Out Items tab, SIERRA displays the items that are currently checked out to the patron. See example:

3. In the table of items checked out to the patron, select the item(s) to renew.

4. Choose the Renew button.

If the item is not eligible for renewal, you will see one of two messages: >>

  •  It is too soon to renew item. (Item is **TOO SOON TO RENEW)
  •  Item has too many renewals (**TOO MANY RENEWALS). Items may only be renewed twice before they must be brought back to the library and rechecked (checked in / checked back out).

Renewing reserves, ILL, holds, storage materials, and other items, each have policies and steps that may differ slightly from the steps listed above. Details in handling such items can be found in other documents or should be referred to a supervisor for instruction.

Renewing Overdue items

When renewing overdue items, you will be prompted with this dialog box: >>
Choose the appropriate response. (Normally, we “Renew and add fine” if the person owes money.  Do not renew with no fine unless instructed to do so by staff or supervisor.)  Be sure to tell patron that fines were added to the patron record.

Check In

When you check an item back in to the library system, SIERRA removes the link from the Item record to the Patron record and checks for holds and messages on the item. Note: You must acknowledge every message before SIERRA can check the item into the system.

ILL items are simply placed on the ILL return cart, located at the back of the holds shelf.

Check In Tab

Select the “Check In” tab on the left navigation bar.  Scan the item barcode. (If the item is not located by scanning the barcode, give item to a supervisor or full-time staff member to check for barcode problems.).  Be aware of messages or item locations.  All locations outside the library (i.e. branch libraries) require that the item be put in transit. Print slip for all items with a return date, branch name and place on the appropriate branch shelf located in the circulation office area. 

Book drop / Backdate

When items are retrieved from the outside book drops, they are backdated for checking in.  You can change the date an item is checked in by clicking on the Backdate button and selecting a different date before you scan the item barcode.  Example:

  1. Click backdate button

  1. Then from the calendar select date to which item is being back-dated.

Checking in an Item in “Circulation Desk” mode

      (Used only for patrons who request a receipt)

When you check in an item for a patron using the "Circulation Desk" mode, you scan or enter the patron I.D. number and SIERRA retrieves and displays the associated Patron record. This mode enables you to perform patron-specific circulation functions (printing receipts or viewing the history of fines paid by a patron) for the patron who has just returned an item.  To do this you retrieve the patron record and click on the check-in tab.  Then scan the item barcode.

While the patron's record is displayed, you can change to another tab to check items out to the patron or place holds. Although checking in with the “Circulation Desk” mode does give you patron related options, it is not the recommended method for checking in materials unless a patron requests a check-in receipt. Be sure that the box is checked by “Print Receipt” in the lower left side of the display.  Image below:


After reading these materials consider the following questions

  • What are some of the basic functions of the SIERRA module?
  • What must a patron have in order to check out /renew items?
  • What is an ID Exception and how many times can a patron use such exceptions?
  • How many ways can one check items in or out using SIERRA?
  • When Checking - out / in: Reserves, ILL, and Holds. What are the differences in how they are handled?

Consider ID and module use.

  • Maps, Reference, Government documents and U.S. Documents may check out differently because?

For an in-depth look at the SIERRA module instruction manual click here. (password needed)

How to Check In / Out Manually

Procedures for Manual Circulation

When the Sierra Circulation system is unavailable, items must be checked out manually. The procedures outlined here will be followed in order to properly record items that are checked out during this period. 

Items that circulate on an hourly basis (reserve items, group study room keys, etc.) will not be checked out in this manner.­

Since we will be unable to verify patron eligibility in Sierra, please ask the patron if he/she is currently enrolled in classes, or if he/she is a currently employed (full time appointed) faculty or staff member.  If they have not registered for privileges (e.g. hourly employee, Spring International or other affiliated patrons) or want to purchase privileges, have the patron complete an Application for Privileges and attach the manual check-out form to the application.

If a patron wants to check out a book, library staff should:

  1. Complete a Manual Circulation Form. Date and initial the form. Legibly print the patron ID number and name on the form. “MANCIRCform” located: ((\\Alexandria\Circulation\Manual Circulation Procedures) There is a link for form below.
  2. Record the barcode from each book on the circulation form.  Record the call number and title of the book. 
  3. If an item does not have a barcode, verify that it is eligible to check out (i.e. is it a journal?)  If you attach a barcode, identify the item on the list as an “on-the-fly item” and on the back of the form give additional information such as the copy number (if other than one), volume information, author, etc.  This information must be detailed enough to identify the item when it is entered into the system.
  4. Record the appropriate due date for the items on the form. Be sure to identify journals and assign appropriate due dates for the items. If it is a reserve item (that circulates for more than two hours), indicate the time due as well.
  5. The supervisor will enter all of the manual charges when the system comes back online. After all the forms are processed, discharging can begin. Items will not be checked in on the system until after the manual check-out forms have been processed.

See procedures for hourly loan items – Two hour Reserves,  group study room keys, etc. below


Since  group study room keys computers and most reserve items are only circulated for a few hours, they will not be able to be entered into the system correctly. These items will be checked out manually using the following procedures:

  1. Obtain a University ID card from the patron.  A University photo ID card is always required to check out items. 
  2. Record the patron’s name and his/her ID number on the form. Return the patron’s ID card.  Do not keep the ID card.
  3. Complete an hourly check-out form for the item(s). Indicate the  group study room key number and barcode number, and, if applicable, the barcode number of the accessories.
    1. If the item is a reserve item that circulates for 2 hours, record the item information on the form (barcode #, call #, title, and copy number and volume number, if any.)
  4. Record the time of check out, and calculate the due time (3 hours for  group study room keys, 2 hours for reserve items, etc.) and indicate on the form.
  5. Have the patron sign that he/she has agreed to the check out and the due date/time for the item. Place the form on the top of the other forms in the hourly loans batch.
  6. When the item is returned, pull the form and indicate the date/time returned.  Return the form to the hourly loans batch (bottom of stack).
  7. The majority of these items will not be checked out or discharged on the system. Items that are checked out for 2 hours overnight and due the next day will be entered by a supervisor if still checked out when the system is back online. “manual form for hourly” form located: (\\Alexandria\Circulation\Manual Circulation Procedures)

Items returned:

Items cannot be discharged and re-shelved when the system is unavailable. It is very important that all items that are not discharged are identified as such. Items returned from the outside book drop will be placed on an empty truck and labeled as “Outside Book Drop.”

1.   As items are returned, put a “CHECK IN / RETURNED” flag in each book. 

  1. Place items on a truck that is designated “need to check in”.
  2. When the system is back online items on the trucks will be checked in according to department procedures.  (See #5 above – manual charge slips must be entered before discharging can begin.)

On-The-Fly Resolution Procedures


Items that are presented to the Circulation Desk to be checked out that do not have a barcode are checked out by placing a dumb barcode on the back of the book (1”  from top and right side), scanning the barcode and creating an item and/or bibliographic record. This process creates what is known as a On-The-Fly record.

When one of these items is returned, the Sierra system will indicate that the item is “on-the-fly”, meaning that a temporary, unverified record has been created that needs to be resolved. The item once checked in is placed on the on-the-fly returns shelf, located in the back of the circulation office area. All returned on-the-fly items are sent to Cataloging for resolution.The primary goal of this procedure is to verify that the correct item record is attached to the proper bibliographic record and that the information entered is correct. 

Problem items (such as call number problems, no cataloged bibliographic record in Sierra, etc.) can have an on-the-fly record created, but should have a note added to the record in order to fix the record promptly once returned.  

On-the-fly U.S. Documents and Maps are sent to the Government Documents office for processing.

Email Receipt Printing - Setup

Emailing Date Due Slips

The Email to Patron option will be set as a default at the workstation and will work for all date/time due slips except for group study rooms because the time due in Sierra will most likely not match the time due in LibCal, For the hourly receipts (if requested), print and correct the time due on the receipt.

The setting for emailing date due slips is found under “File / Select Printer / Receipt Printer”.  Select “Email to Patron” in order for receipts to be emailed to the patron email address.

NOTE: In order for the patron to receive a date due slip (either printed or emailed), the Print slip box must be checked.   If the patron does not want a receipt (either emailed or printed), you may uncheck the box, but be sure it is selected before the next transaction.  When you have checked out an item, and close the record you will be prompted to send an email to the patron.  If you select yes, the email will be sent.  If you select no, you will have the option to print a receipt. 

The option to print a receipt will display asking the staff member to select a receipt printer option.  At this prompt, select Local Printer which will then print to the Star printer.  If you select cancel, it will not print or send.               

Receipts may also be emailed for items being checked in, either from the patron record (as above) or from the check-in screen.   If you wish to email a return receipt from check-in, the system will request an email address (since you are not in a patron record and it does not access the patron record from this screen.   You must type in the email address for the patron.

Additionally, a list of items checked out to the patron may be emailed from the patron record.  Follow the prompts to “print” (email) the list from the patron record.    When you select print from the list of checked out items, you will be prompted to verify the email address and send the list to the patron.