Koha How-To

Reopening Your Library: Circulation Rules

In this post, we’ll cover the parts of the reopening process that relate to your circulation and fines rules. Where possible, we worked with our partners to find ways to reach their desired ends without changes to their circ rules, but this wasn’t always possible. We tried to avoid changes to circ rules because those changes are not logged anywhere. That means we’re largely dependent upon your memories of what your circ rules were before changes were made. That’s not ideal, but it’s workable.

We have separate posts about reopening as it relates to holds and fines. Those both tie into your circ rules pretty directly, so expect some overlap here, but I encourage you to see those posts as well.

A couple system preferences

Before we dive into circ rules proper, there are a couple of related system preferences that you may have changed. UseDaysMode asks how to use the Koha calendar when working out due dates. Some libraries changed this to make sure nothing came due while they were closed. FinesCalendar asks how to use the Koha calendar when calculating fines. Some libraries changed this to make sure fines weren’t assessed while they were closed.

Changes to your system preferences are recorded in your action logs. If you’re uncertain about whether or not you changed these preferences, head to Tools > Log Viewer and perform a search in the System Preferences module. We’re happy to help if you’re unsure how to do so.

Whose rules?

As we move into the circ rules page, remember that this page contains a set of default rules for all libraries and another set of rules for each individual library in your system. You’ll want to go through your default rules as well as the rules for each library. This is especially important for multi-branch or multi-library systems, but even single-library systems have a page for default rules and a page for library-specific rules. Koha will always use library-specific rules before the default all libraries rules, so it’s easy for single-library systems to get confused about which rules are getting used.

To pick your rule set, use the Select a library dropdown just above the rules matrix:

Remember that the system preferences CircControl, HomeOrHoldingBranch, and ReservesControlBranch determine which library’s rules apply to a given checkout or hold, and your settings on these system preferences can have a lot of impact on how your circ rules are interpreted.

The rules matrix

The rules matrix is what we call the large table that contains the bulk of your circ rules, defined by combinations of patron category and item type. While it’s never a bad idea to give your whole matrix a once-over to make sure it’s doing what you want, there are a few fields that are most likely to have gotten change as part of your closure:

  • Fine amount and Fine charging interval: If you wanted just some patrons or items to go fine-free while you were closed, you might have set these to 0 or just emptied them out. Changing these values will change the fine behavior for all current and future checkouts.
  • Renewals allowed and renewal period: If you wanted patrons with existing patrons to get the option of more time, you might have changed these values. Changing these values will change the renewal behavior for all current and future checkouts.
  • Automatic renewal: Several libraries made changes here, but I’ll discuss it in its own section below.
  • Holds allowed: If you wanted to change holds behavior for just some patrons or items, you might have changed this value. Changing this value will not impact existing holds.

Checkout, hold, and return policy

These settings enforce broad limits on how many checkouts and holds a patron may have and also some behavior around whether or not items move between branches. In multi-branch systems where some branches closed and others did not, Hold policy may have been set to “No holds allowed” for those branches that closed. In systems that wanted to curtail the movement of items between libraries, Hold pickup library match and Return policy may have been altered either for specific libraries or for all libraries.

Default holds policy by item type

These settings also enforce limits on what can be held or transferred, but do so by item type. You may have changed these if you had specific types of items for which you wanted to prevent holds or transfers.

Automatic renewal

Changes to the automatic renewal behavior of existing checkouts is complicated because whether or not an item will auto-renew is set based on the circ rules as they exist when the item is checked out. Each rule in the circ matrix includes a yes or no in the Automatic renewal column. At the time of checkout, this rule is consulted to determine whether or not this item will be eligible for auto-renew for the entirety of its loan period. Changing this rule does not change whether or not existing checkouts are eligible for auto-renew; it only changes whether or not future checkouts will be eligible for auto-renew. For more detail about auto-renew setup, see Jessie’s recent blog post on the subject.

We enabled auto-renewal for a lot of libraries who wanted to make things as simple as possible for their patrons while the library was closed. If we turned on auto-renew for you and you love it, that’s great! We’ll leave it on. If you’d like to turn it off now, we have a little work to do.

First, you’ll need to set all of your circ rules to No for automatic renewal in the circ matrix. But, as mentioned above, this doesn’t change your existing auto-renewable checkouts. There is no mechanism in Koha to push the auto-renew settings from your updated rules out to your existing checkouts. Either we can let your existing auto-renew checkouts complete their natural lifecycle or we can batch edit all of your existing checkouts to no longer auto-renew. If possible, we recommend the former as minimizing the edits we make to your existing checkouts minimizing the possibility of unexpected consequences.