Faculty paying (or not) for lost or damaged expensive visual materials

clewis@american.edu
Wed, 24 Oct 2001 13:24:36 -0700 (PDT)

One of the sticky issues that occasionally rears its head here at AU is
what to do when an expensive video is either lost or damaged when a
professor has it checked out. Though we have a software loan form that
clearly states that the borrower, by his/her signature, assumes full
responsibility for replacement in the case of loss or damage, the truth is
that no professor is going to pay $700 for a lost CRM film (and very few
are going to write a check for a $200 videotape without a complaint).
Trying to squeeze the money out of the scofflaw's department would
undoubtedly escalate to an Administrative head-butting that the library
would yield on in order to protect it's public image.

I know many vendors will sell replacement copies at deeply discounted
prices but that could still leave one with a bill of $200 or more. In the
past, we have gotten some professors to pay but I have written off many of
these replacement purchases if the item has been used frequently. Presently
I do not have a slush fund for replacing lost videos. In an ideal world we
should probably verbally remind professors of their responsibility each
time when they check out an expensive item, but its unrealistic to expect a
staff of 15 part-time staff to understand for which items they should be
issuing that warning.

Fortunately this is not a rampant problem but it does occur often enough
that I would like to establish a more realistic policy that the University
Administration and Collection Development will endorse.

I would like to hear other's experiences with this problem to aid in
grappling with it myself.

Christopher Lewis
American University Library
Media Librarian
202.885.3257