FAQ about Library Operations and Policies

Actually, most of these questions and requests are rather infrequent, but we thought you might want to know the answers anyway, so here they are.

Please reduce the noise in the library.

Some library users want and expect quiet. Others want and expect social interaction and group study. We want to serve both groups. We hope to eventually remodel parts of the library to provide both designated quiet zones and other areas where some social interaction and group study is permitted. We are committed to providing a quiet study environment for those who want it. If you are disturbed by noise, alert staff so they can remedy the situation.

Some noise is unavoidable. For example, the elevator chimes, and some soft conversation is necessary near staff service points (circulation desk, media desk, and reference offices). Talking is also permitted in the patio, conference rooms and group study rooms.

Some noise is affected by building structure. The atrium funnels noise from the circulation desk and entryway up to the second and third floors.

If you place a premium on quiet, consider using remote regions of the library that are always quiet, such as the South end of the 2d and 3d floors of the Turpin building.

Please raise/lower the temperature.

We want to provide a comfortable study environment. If you are uncomfortable, alert library staff. Temperature, humidity and air circulation are regulated by computers under the control of campus physical plant staff. Library staff have no direct control over equipment. When library users report they are uncomfortable, library staff investigate and report to physical plant staff. In addition, physical plant personnel have detailed records of all sensor readings in the building and are alerted by the computers when unusual situations arise. So they are well informed at all times, but a word from library staff always gets their attention.

Sudden weather changes, power failures, and equipment failures can cause temporary problems throughout the building. Local air flow, the amount of direct sun light in a given area, and other factors can affect temperature in a small portion of a building on a longer term basis. On the other hand, you may find you are uncomfortable when all equipment is working properly and most building occupants are quite comfortable. What is ideal for one person may be uncomfortable for another. In fact we usually find that this is the case when one person reports discomfort.

While waiting for physical plant staff to respond, exercise the options you have. Pick a sunny or shady portion of the building. Pick an open (high air circulation) or closed area of the building. Experiment with both Turpin and Mosher. The Turpin building and the Mosher buildings have independent HVAC (heating, ventilating, air conditioning) systems. So you may find one building more comfortable than the other.

Please lengthen the loan period and/or allow unlimited renewals. To compensate, require return of the item if someone else places a hold on it.

Our borrowing policies are designed to promote sharing of resources among many people who are cooperating with each other but also competing to use the same resources. We want material to be conveniently accessible to the many, and we want to curb the tendency of a few borrowers to horde and monopolize. So we loan for a few weeks, we allow renewals, we limit renewals, and we block renewals when others have placed a hold on an item. The result is that a person can keep an item for a reasonably long time by renewal as long as no one else places a hold on it, but the item is soon available for someone else if that other person places a hold on it.

With any policy, some people will benefit and others will find it a nuisance. Very long loan periods or unlimited renewals are convenient for the few students working on very long term projects (such as doctoral dissertation research) but are very inconvenient for everyone else. Someone who actually USES a book for the maximum number of renewals and truly needs it longer will find it inconvenient to have to return it and check it out again at a later time. But most of our students who keep a book for the maximum period do not use it that long: they simply have it checked out, and most days it is sitting unused. This keeps the book from others.

Holds are helpful but are not an overall solution to the problem of sharing resources. Holds work pretty well for students who are working on a long term project. However, many students need to work for just a few weeks on each of several short assignments. They often start an assignment only a few weeks before it is due. They tend to use whatever they find on the shelf. Holds do not work as well for them because of the short time frame. So it is important to encourage borrowers to return books when they are not being used. Our loan periods and renewal policies encourage that.

Why do some other libraries have longer loan periods and more generous renewal policies?

Many seminaries have a similar loan period and renewal policy. However, it is true that institutions with very low use of their circulating collections can and do set long loan periods and generous renewal policies because their materials are in such low demand. Some of these seminaries have only 100 or 200 students. That is not the case at DTS.

Please keep the library open longer.

At present (6/2009) the library building is open 74.5 hours/week during the school year and a bit less during the summer. BIBLOS and most Internet accessible databases are available 23 hours/day, 7 days/week. The library generally opens before class starts and closes after class ends. So the library already has liberal hours. However, we realize some students work odd hours, commute long distances and wish to be on campus only two days/week, or have other schedule problems. For that reason library staff monitor facility use to see if changes are warranted. We occasionally survey building occupancy by time of day and day of week. We tabulate both circulation activity and library catalog searches by time of day. In other words, we know how many people are in the building every hour of the day. We know how many items are borrowed every hour of the day, and we know how many searches are executed every hour of the day. We want to respond to student desires, but every additional one hour/week open requires three people on duty (including media center) and costs well over a thousand dollars per year (= 3 x 50 x average-hourly-wage), so increases must be based on substantial need.

Why do the main circulation desk and the media center close before the building closes?

The main circulation desk closes 15 minutes before the library building closes. Announcements are made in advance regarding both closing of the desk and closing of the library building. No transactions will be made after the desk closes, except that users who are already in line at the desk before it closes will be allowed to complete their transactions if otherwise practical. In extreme cases, staff may also store library materials and postpone borrowing transactions until the next working day. This is almost never necessary.

The media center, computer lab and AV lab close 30 minutes before the library building closes. Announcements are made in advance. Users must vacate those areas promptly so the basement can be secured. Lab users will be allowed to save work in progress at the time of closing, but will not be allowed to compose, edit, print, record, or do other work after hours.

In the early 1990's the circulation desk and media center closed at the same time as the rest of the building. This proved impractical. Staff had to stay as much as 30 minutes after closing. So we now close the service points early. Students often need time after they have checked out their last books or printed their last paper to gather their belongings and evacuate the building by closing time. Staff need time away from the service points to pick up books, straighten the furniture, shut down computers, etc. By closing the desk earlier than the building, the staff are able to put the library in order before it opens the next day.

Why are photocopy rooms closed 15 minutes before the building closes?

Copy rooms close when the circulation desk closes. Anyone making copies at the time may finish the single item being copied, and must then clear the room. This gives library patrons time to collect their belongings and leave the building by closing time. It enables staff to complete their work, secure the building, and leave at a reasonable hour.

Prior to 1996, we kept copiers operating until it was time to lock the building. This proved to be unsatisfactory. On occasion, library users continued to copy 10, 15, even 20 minutes after the library front door had been locked. After this happened a few times during the fall semester of 1996, the library established an early closing time for the copiers.

Why are photocopies so expensive?

The library does not own or control the photocopy machines and does not set the price of copies. However, DTS is not making a profit on copies. We simply recover the lease cost. The amount of money DTS pays to the companies from which we lease machines depends on the number of copies made on campus as a whole, and the number of copies made on individual machines. One Kinko's shop makes ten or twenty times as many copies as the entire DTS campus, so DTS pays more per copy than the Kinko's company does, for example. For additional specific details on cost to lease machines, etc. contact the DTS copy center.

Why can't I eat in the library?

Consumption of beverages in containers with closed lids is permitted. Eating of solid food is permitted in patio areas but prohibited in all other areas. See House Rules for details. Please protect the facilities. Even with our present restrictions, janitors report damage to carpets and furniture in the library from food and drink. (Here is an example.) Food and drink may attract insects which in turn damage books. Students studying in the building have complained about the aroma of food left in storage areas. MMC has good food immediately across the street from the library.

Why aren't all the textbooks on reserve?

Required textbooks are indeed required; you must purchase them. Faculty have concluded these books are important for your education and are a good investment for your personal library. That is why they are required and are usually not on reserve. Of course, the library puts textbooks on reserve if the DTS bookroom has an insufficient number available for sale.

Why am I not receiving email notices from the library?

We do use email and it works very well for most library users, but your record may lack an email address or may have an obsolete address. Update your email address on your CampusNet account (your online registration account) and the information will get to your library account overnight. Another possibility is that your ISP or personal email spam filter is blocking delivery. Be sure your system is configured to accept all mail from the domain dts.edu. See undelivered email at the computer FAQ for some technical help.

Please stop the junk mail! Don't notify me by email just before my books are due.

As a courtesy to borrowers, the library emails a due date reminder two days before their items are due. Most borrowers like this service but some consider it junk mail. Library software does not allow selective notification of just those people who want the reminder.

Why are so many books missing?

Missing books are frustrating. We do not know exactly how many are missing. 430 items were reported missing in 1999-2000. That was 430/240,000 = 0.00178 of items owned. That is typical of other years. However, many missing books are never reported, so the true missing rate is higher than that. Missing rate varies with subject area and time of year. The missing rate you experience for specific assignments at some times of the year may be unacceptably high, and the library is trying to improve the situation. Some missing books are actually on the shelves, but misfiled. Many missing books have been improperly removed from the building. Most also reappear by the end of the semester. In 1999-2000, 94.2% of missing items were eventually found. But many were not found quickly enough to meet student needs.

The library uses the following procedures to address this problem. First, library staff systematically check sorting on the shelves and return misfiled books to their proper location. All six miles of shelves are checked about twice per year. Second, the library purchases multiple copies of all high use items. Third, the library uses a security system which hinders improper removal of materials. Finally, the library works with faculty who can place required-use items on reserve. Tightly controlled reserve books almost never disappear. (The missing book problem is most acute when everyone in a large class must use approximately the same materials at the same time. So the problem could be lessened by changing the way assignments are made so students do different assignments or do the same assignments at different times.) But ultimately only proper student conduct will solve the missing book problem.

What can I do to find a missing book?

We can help you find missing books, but begin by rechecking yourself. Books might not be on the shelf because they are checked out, mis-shelved, or waiting to be re-shelved. The library catalog will indicate whether the book you want is checked-out or is awaiting reshelving. Books are sometimes on the shelf, but slightly out of place. Recheck the shelves carefully with this in mind. Periodicals may be in the copy rooms.

If you are still unable to find it, report the problem to library staff. We are eager to help. Many missing items are found within 48 hours and most are recovered in less than 4 weeks. Just contact circulation staff. They will verify it is not on loan, at the bindery, etc. Staff will search the entire building 5 times over a period of about 90 days. You may place a hold so you will be notified when the book it found. If the item is not found and is still in print, the library may purchase a replacement.

Why can't I borrow periodicals and reference books? Why can't I take them to Kinko's to photocopy?

These works are especially important for advanced study and research. They are especially difficult and expensive to replace if lost. Students typically need only one or two short articles from a volume, so there is rarely any need to use the volumes outside of the building. You can read or photocopy on premises. If you really think an exception to the rule is warranted, ask!

Will you mail books and articles to me?

Turpin Library will mail books and photocopies of articles to DTS extension and distance education students, and to physically impaired students. (Details here.) The library does not mail materials to Dallas campus students.

Dallas Theological Seminary maintains library collections for the use of current faculty, students, and staff. The seminary library does not mail materials directly to alumni or to the general public. The general public may obtain materials cited in the library catalog and databases either by purchasing through a commercial vendor or by borrowing through the Interlibrary Loan system. In other words, you can borrow books from us by mail if you go through the ILL department of your local library. Details here.

Why are study rooms available only to groups?

Room 205 (Turpin 2nd floor) and Room 305 (Turpin 3rd floor) are the only group study rooms in Turpin, and they are in high demand throughout the day. These rooms provide a place for small groups of 2 to 6 people to talk (softly!) and work together without disturbing the study of others.

Why can't I use the public computer workstations near the circulation desk for word processing, etc?

We have a limited number of standup workstations near the circulation desk. They are designated for short term research purposes like a quick search of BIBLOS or ATLA database, and should not be used by anyone for long periods for any other purpose. That is why there are no chairs provided at these standup workstations and why word processing software is not installed on the computers. However, it is okay to use them briefly for non-research purposes like email or quick web browsing.

DTS faculty, students and staff may use computers in the basement computer lab for seminary assignments and for most ministry and personal purposes including email. The lab provides greater privacy, better seating, more software, more printing options and better downloading options than standup workstations near the circulation desk. Local public libraries provide free Internet workstations for the general public.

Why does my attempt to renew items on BIBLOS fail?

A renewal will be blocked if some other user has placed a hold on the item in question, if it has already been renewed too many times, or if your library account is excessively delinquent (e.g. because of unpaid fines or overdue items). You should get an intelligible error message if a renewal attempt fails.

Why aren't all the books available online?

Copyright law, data entry problems, and cost are barriers to making books and journals available online. Some of our commercially licensed databases do provide fulltext documents online. But it will be many, many years before a full theological library is available.

I can't find enough/any material on my topic; what should I do?

Ask the reference staff for help. We almost always have sufficient material to support a theological study, whatever the topic. Perhaps the problem is just a matter of knowing where and how to hunt. However, we are not a university library and do not have extensive holdings in non-theological topics. If you are doing serious study in secular education, social sciences, etc. then expect to use resources outside of Turpin library. But start with our reference staff; they will help you compile a bibliography and suggest what DFW resources to use. Also consider the next question.

How can I obtain items DTS does not own? (TexShare and Interlibrary Loan)

Current DTS faculty, student and staff have two main options.

  1. TexShare. If you need the item immediately, then you should first check to see if it is available at another library in the DFW area. The fastest way to do this is to search WorldCat. Another way is to search specific library catalogs in the DFW area. If the item you want is available in the DFW area, then get a TexShare card from Turpin Library circulation desk. This will give you borrowing privileges at most local libraries. You can go the the library that owns the items and get it yourself. See these pages for additional information about TexShare for faculty or students. DTS issues TexShare cards only to DTS faculty, students and staff; we do not issue TexShare cards to guests or courtesy card users.
  2. Interlibrary Loan. If you can wait two weeks for delivery, then you can use interlibrary loan to get almost anything that has ever been published. All you need to do is tell the Turpin Library Interlibrary loan specialist what you want. Ask at the circulation desk. See these pages for additional information on Interlibrary loan for faculty or students. Only DTS faculty, students and staff are eligible to use this service; guests and courtesy card users may not use ILL.

If you are a visitor, guest, courtesy card user or DTS alumnus and you wish to borrow something DTS owns, see Library Services for the General Public. If you want to obtain something DTS does not own, try the interlibrary loan department of your local public library. Your library can borrow what you want from another library.

All the good books on my topic are checked-out; what should I do?

There are several things you can do. 1) If you have time, place holds on those books so you will be notified when they return. You can do this yourself in BIBLOS. 2) If you lack time, use reference works and journals that never leave the library. Staff can show you how to find these works. 3) If other libraries in the area have material available, get a TexShare card from DTS so you have borrowing privileges at those libraries. 4) If everyone in the class is required to use the same books at the same time, then ask your instructor to place those books on reserve. 5) Ask reference staff for assistance. They may uncover good resources you overlooked. 6) Consider changing your topic if possible. Often this is an option. 7) Start earlier next time.