We all know some strange things can happen in libraries, but a story out of the East Lake County Library in Sorrento, Fla., has left me scratching my head. A few staff members at the library decided to create a fake library patron called Chuck Finley, who “checked out” 2,361 book over nine months in an effort to boost the circulation stats of the library’s classic books. Now, one staff member could lose his or her job.
The desire to both save books and save the library money is understandable. Unfortunately, the staff’s actions created a larger problem. “‘Chuck Finley’s’ prolific checking out of books,” boosted circulation by 3.9 percent. This was all an attempt to counteract the library’s weeding policy: “[If] something isn’t circulated in one to two years, it’s typically weeded out of circulation.” It’s a shame that more reasonable efforts were not taken to address the issue.
Despite many people’s cringing at the thought of it, weeding is a necessary process in libraries,. Though I do not have a problem with weeding, the East Lake County Library’s blanket two-year checkout limit seems aggressive. There are many other important criteria to consider when weeding. Besides low usage, librarians look at currency, physical condition, and uniqueness. Staff could have addressed any concerns by talking to the administrators and attempting to revise the library’s collection development policy. Naturally, this would take work, but it would be a worthy effort since these policies need periodic updating anyway. Additionally, library staff could have considered designating the classic books a special collection—much like reference books, a local history collection, or genealogical materials—so that they could remain in use.
Jason Ruiter notes that the use of dummy patron cards is spreading and that one is “[creating] a false public record.” in doing so. I hope this practice is not becoming a norm. It might not seem like a problem, but it is, as this case proves. Short of testing that the ILS is functioning properly, there’s no need for a patron dummy card. Whatever the motivations here, it appears there was a lack of judgment and communication. Now the library must deal with extra scrutiny and a loss of trust.
Editor’s Note: We removed this sentence on 1/31/2017, after determining that the information was incorrect: Funding for this library is determined by circulation numbers, which were severely skewed by their misstep.
2. Jason Ruiter, “To Save Books, Librarians Create ‘Fake’ Reader to Check Out Titles,” Orlando Sentinel, December 30, 2016.
 Eric Grundhauser, “Why a Fake Patron Named ‘Chuck Finley’ Checked Out 2,361 Books at This Florida Library Last Year,” Alta Obscura, January 3, 2017.
 Jeff Cole in “To Save Books, Librarians Create ‘Fake’ Reader to Check Out Titles” by Jason Ruiter.
 Collection Management Guidelines – Weeding, UALR Ottenheimer Library,
 “To Save Books, Librarians Create ‘Fake’ Reader to Check Out Titles,” Orlando Sentinel.