University Libraries defends itself against internal auditors

Library audit reveals $133,000 loss in textbooks and materials loaned by staff

Madison Fantozzi/Assistant news director
madison.fantozzi@fiusm.com

This story published in Florida International University’s Student Media’s The Beacon on Monday, Feb. 11, 2013. You can also read online: http://fiusm.com/2013/02/11/library-audit-reveals-missing-textbooks-loaned-by-staff/

Books check out but do not check back in to University Libraries. Instead, they reside in faculty offices with high nightly rates.

The Office of Internal Audit reports a potential loss of $133,000 in library material: 1,330 overdue library items loaned to 268 faculty members as of June 2012 in the audit of University Libraries.

Interim Dean of University Libraries Thomas Breslin, who commented via email because he was unavailable for an interview, said the list of overdue books contains the names of full-time and adjunct faculty, all of whom the library has notified at least twice.

The audit says it was unable to determine the reason why faculty are not subject to the same circulation procedures as students and other patrons.

The circulation and borrowing policies of University Libraries state that student library accounts must be settled before registering for classes, obtaining transcripts and graduating.

The question of imposing fines on faculty for overdue books will be discussed with the Library Committee of the Faculty Senate this spring.

Breslin’s own estimate is 1,000 overdue books among 1,000 faculty members.

He does not attribute the loss of library material exclusively to faculty, however.

“Coincidentally, I heard from one of the deans that books may have been lost when the contents of many faculty offices in [Deuxieme Maison] were thrown out when mold was discovered,” Breslin wrote. “My understanding is that hundreds of missing books [are] in repairs.”

He said books also may have been returned by faculty but stolen before being processed.

In addition, Breslin wrote that books also may have been returned by faculty but not processed before being put back on library shelves.

“We have occasionally found that books listed as long overdue have been reshelved,” Breslin said. “Cutbacks in work study funding have made the job of managing the book stacks more challenging.”

However, the Office of Internal Audits cannot confirm these speculations.

“The items we [are referring to in the audit] resulted from unreturned items that were checked out and not returned,” said Allen Vann, audit director of the University’s Office of Internal Audit, in a statement. “We have no information regarding losses due to theft or mold.”

According to Breslin, the library will attempt to reposition the security gates at Green Library and install a second security gate at Hubert Library to discourage theft. The library has also discussed placing cameras at the circulation desks to discourage theft of items returned but not yet processed.

“Improvement to University Libraries’ security will take place as monies become available,” Bresin wrote.

Breslin also said a reading of the shelves is overdue and dependent on securing adequate money to pay students to assist with the process. The library is working to secure funds which were depleted by a cutback in federal work study support.

Books lost by faculty members, Breslin said, will be billed to them but not necessarily replaced.

Library staff is preparing a response to the internal auditors’ questions – questions for which Breslin said he has no simple answers.

Librarians were not available for comment.

“The auditors raised questions about highly technical issues to which no one librarian has all necessary information,” Breslin wrote. “Under these circumstances, librarians are correct to wait until there is general agreement among technical specialists as to what would be an accurate response to the auditors, or anyone else.”

University Libraries’ formal answer to the Office of Internal Audit will be public record. Breslin said he will be available for further comment on Feb. 20.

[Update]: University Libraries responds to audit, ends “informal exception” for faculty and overdue books

This story published in Florida International University’s Student Media’s The Beacon on Monday, May 13, 2013. You can also read online: http://fiusm.com/2013/05/13/libraries-respond-to-audits-criticism-by-restoring-policy-on-overdue-books/

Madison Fantozzi/News director
madison.fantozzi@fiusm.com 

University Libraries said it had no simple answer when the Office of Internal Audit reported 1,300 overdue library items loaned to 268 faculty members.

With a potential loss of $133,000 in material, the audit said it was unable to determine the reason why faculty are not subject to the same circulation procedures as students.

Interim Dean of University Libraries Thomas Breslin told Student Media in February that books were not necessarily overdue, but may have been damaged by mold, returned but not processed or even stolen.

Three months later, a formal policy has been created that will not only restore the policy on overdue books, but will also maintain the cleanliness and quietness of the libraries based on results of the libraries’ university-wide survey of its patrons.

The new policy will take effect this summer.

“The informal exemption of faculty members and staff from overdue fines and replacement costs will cease,” said Breslin in a statement.

Breslin said the policy is a direct result of the criticism by the Office of Internal Audit and of difficulties recalling books requested by faculty members.

A 25-cent fine per day for an overdue book will be reinstated and a $105 minimum will be charged for the replacement of books more than 90 days overdue.

Breslin wrote that library privileges will be blocked until material is returned or the invoice paid.

University Libraries will also renew its food and conversation policies.

“The library staff have done an analysis of the LibQual+ survey comments and the analysis notes that space, quiet and cleanliness issues loom large on patrons’ minds, underscoring the need for the new policies,” said Breslin in an email to Student Media.

Food and beverages will not be permitted above the first floor except water in closed containers.

In the Green Library, only quiet conversation is permitted in study rooms and on the second floor. Whispering is permitted on the fourth and fifth floors, and in the elevators. The policy also states that silence must be observed on the third, sixth and seventh floors. Cell phone use is limited to the stairwells.

“The need for the [conversation] policy, on quiet and silence in the libraries, became ever more obvious during the time before exams when many students seeking a quiet place to study were frustrated by the noise,” said Breslin.

Similarly, only quiet conversation is permitted in study rooms and on the first floor in the Hubert Library. Whispering is permitted on the second floor and in the elevators. Silence must be observed on the third floor.
The libraries will begin enforcement of its new policies on July 1.

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