Enhancements to Evergreen Billing and Handling of Lost, Long Overdue & Claims Returned Items

BILL-01 Support for No Negative Balances and Conditional Negative Balances

  • The system should provide two library settings to stop the system from automatically applying a negative balance for a bill or overdue fine.
  • For those libraries that choose to allow negative balances, the system should also provide a library setting for a max interval for the time after a bill has been paid that a refund can be applied to the patron record.
     

See also https://bugs.launchpad.net/evergreen/+bug/1009049.

Background

There are a couple of scenarios that cause Evergreen to automatically apply a negative balance to a patron's records. 

1. Evergreen provides a library setting to void a lost item's billing when that item is returned. The policy at many libraries is to void this lost item billing, but only if the lost bill has not yet been paid. If those libraries enable the current setting, when a patron returns a lost item that has already been paid, a negative balance is applied to the patron record. Staff then need to go to Local Administratin > Patrons with Negative Balaces to view a list of patrons with a negative balance, retrieve each of these patrons, and manually clear the negative balance on their records.

Those libraries that do provide refunds often will only refund the lost payment if the item is returned within x many days of being paid. A setting similar to the "Void lost max interval" setting would be useful for these libraries.

2. Negative balances can also accrue in situations where a patron partially pays for an overdue fine while the item is still checked out. 

  1. An item checked out to the patron is overdue and starts accruing fines.
  2. The patron visits the library and is told he owes $1.00 in the fines that have accrued. He pays the fines at that visit even though the item has not been checked back in.
  3. The overdue fines keep accruing, adding another $2.00 in fines to his record.
  4. The patron reports that he did return the item on time. A check of the shelves confirms that the item had been previously checked in. 
  5. Using the "amnesty mode" option, staff checks the item in. 
  6. "Amnesty mode" is set to void fines. It voids the total overdue fines applied to the item - $3.00, creating a negative balance on the patron record.

Because a library's policy for refunding bills for lost/long overdue items may be different from its policy for refunding overdue fines, there should be two distinct library settings covering negative balances for both these scenarios.

Use Cases

The No Refund Public Library (NRPL) has enabled the library setting to void a lost item's billing when it is returned, but has also enabled the setting for No Negative Balances for Lost/Long Overdue Bills. Lucy Lostbook reports to library staff that she has lost a book, and a $25 lost fee is applied to her record. Lucy only has $10 in her wallet and pays just a portion of her lost fee, leaving a balance of $15. Lucy finds here book a week letter and returns it to the library. The remaining $15 of the lost fee is voided, leaving a zero balance on her record.

The Refund Public Library (RPL) will refund a patron's lost fee payment if the item is returned within 30 days of payment. The library enables the setting to void a lost item's billing when it is returned and also sets a max interval of 30 days for the refund. Lucy Lostbook reports to library staff that she has lost two books, each of which cost $20, on March 1. She pays $40 for both lost fees on April 1. On April 29, she finds one of the lost books and returns it to the library, generating a $20 refund on her record. She finds the second lost book on May 1, but the system does not provide her with a refund because more than 30 days have passed since she paid the lost fee.

The No Overdue Refund Public Library (NORPL) has a policy to refund payments for lost items as long as the item is returned within 30 days of payments. However, because overdue fines are immediately sent to the town, it cannot refund payments for overdue fines. The library is able to set the No Negative Balances for Lost/Long Overdue Bills setting to false and the No Negative Balances for Overdue Fines setting to true to support both of these policies.

BILL-02 Support for Lost & Paid Status

The system should provide support for a Lost & Paid status.

  • Lost & Paid status should be applied to an item once the borrower has fully paid for the item.This status should be applied in the following situations:
    • A lost item has been paid.
    • An item that has been billed through the long overdue process has been paid. 
  • Once a lost or long overdue item has been paid, it should be removed from the Items Out screen of the patron's record, unless the Leave transaction open when lost balance equals zero library setting has been enabled.

BILL-03 Void Lost Fees for Claims Returned Items

  • If an item is set as Claims Returned after it had previously been set to Lost, the lost fee should be voided. 
  • The voiding of this lost fee should adhere to the "no negative balances" library settings in determining whether a refund should be issued. (Related Requirement: BILL-01)
  • Items that have been marked Claims Returned should not automatically be set to Long Overdue or Lost at a later time and should not incur a future billing on the user's record.

See also https://bugs.launchpad.net/evergreen/+bug/980296

BILL-04 Allow Renewals on Lost, Long Overdue and Claims Returned Items

The system should provide a permission allowing a user to renew a Lost, Long Overdue or Claims Returned Item. 

  • When a lost item is renewed, the status of the item should revert to Checked Out and should be an active checkout on the patron record.  The system should void any lost item billings. If voiding the lost item billing needs to be a setting, it should be distinct from the setting to void lost item billing when an item is returned. The system should adhere to the following library settings to determine if lost billings should be voided and overdue fines restored :
    • Lost Checkin Generates New Overdues
    • Restore Overdues on Lost Item Return
    • Void Processing Fee on Lost Item Return
    • Any library settings created for Related Requirement BILL-01
  • When a Claims Returned item is renewed, the status of the item should revert to Checked Out (if it had been changed during the Claims Returned process) and should be an active checkout on the patron record. Any overdue fines that were voided when the item was marked Claims Returned should be restored.
  • When a long overdue item is renewed, the status of the item should revert to Checked Out and should be an active checkout on the patron record. The system should void any long overdue item billings. If voiding the long overdue item billing needs to be a setting, it should be distinct from the setting to void lost item billing when an item is returned.The system shoulde adhere to the below settings or to any new settings introduced to Evergreen to manage the return of Long Overdue items:
    • Lost Checkin Generates New Overdues
    • Restore Overdues on Lost Item Return
    • Void Processing Fee on Lost Item Return
    • Any library settings created for Related Requirement BILL-01

 

See also https://bugs.launchpad.net/evergreen/+bug/638509.

 

BILL-05 Exceeding Long Overdue Count Penalty

  • A standing penalty should be available for patrons who exceed a count of  longoverdue items.

Use case

The No Long Overdue Items Public Library (NLIPL) has a policy to block circulations, renewals and holds for patrons who have any unpaid long overdue items on their record. This library can set a penalty threshold of 1 for the PATRON_EXCEEDS_UNPAID_LO_COUNT standing penalty.

BILL-06 Enhancements to Interface

BILL-06a Items Out Interface

  • Lost or long overdue items that have been returned should always be removed from the Items Out interface, even it there are still overdue fines associated with the item.
  • Libraries should have the option to display lost and long overdue items in the top Items Out section of the Items Out screen. In many cases, circ staff prefers to see all of the items out, even those that are long overdue or lost, in one list. This option is reflected in the Suggested Changes to Items Out Interface mock-up.

BILL-06b Bills Interface

  • The Balance OwedTotal Billed, and Payment Pending columns should sort numerically instead of asciibetically.
  • Different colors should be used to highlight overdue items still checked out, long overdue items still checked out, and lost items. The distinct colors will make it easier for staff to distinguish among the different statuses. The colors should highlight the entire row, not just the title.
  • For negative bills on a patron's bill: in addition to the refund option on the shortcut menu, which accounts for any refunds in the Cash Report, there should also be a clear negative balance option, which clears the refund without impacting the Cash Report. 
  • A library setting should be available to remove the "Convert Change to Patron Credit" option from the Bills interface.
  • A setting should be available allowing a workstation to choose to have all bills deselected when loading the bills interface. The intent of this option is to minimize errors in applying payments to the wrong bill.
  • Above enhancements are reflected in the Suggested Changes to Billing Interface mock-up.

BILL-07 Cash Report

  • The cash report should distinguish between money collected to pay overdue fines, money collected to pay for a lost or billed (long overdue) item, and money collected to pay for grocery fees. See Cash Report Mockup 1.
  • Staff should be able expand the total money collected to view individual payment information. This payment information should include the amount of the payment, the patron name, and the title. Staff should be able to click the patron name to retrieve the patron in a new tab and click the title to retreive the item details in a new tab.See Cash Report Mockup 2.

Bill-07 was removed from the project due to its high cost and lower priority when compared to the other billing projects.

AttachmentSize
Suggested changes to items out page.png31.2 KB
suggested changes to billing page61.28 KB
Cash report mockup 142.32 KB
Cash report mockup 242.41 KB

Comments

Re: Enhancements to Evergreen Billing and Handling of Lost, ...

Admin

Vendor questions related to Bill-02

1. Would the scope of work include changing the status of all previously lost and paid for assets to “Lost & Paid” or will this just be a new status for future lost and paid for items?  

No, it wouldn't be necessary to change the status of previously lost and paid assets. However, it might be desirable for the developer to add some notes to the TechRef docs with  pointers on where these updates should be made in case there are other Evergreen sites that choose to do so.

2. Would the “Lost & Paid” status also apply to items that are lost but no lost fee was assessed?  What about items that the lost fee was forgiven?  

If the lost fee is forgiven, then the item should get a "Lost & Paid" status.

Regarding lost items where no fee was assessed: In all three of our consortia, we don't see this situation happening because they have all applied library settings for a default price to be applied if the price of an item is null or zero. However, we understand that there are Evergreen sites that may face this situation. Our inclination is to say that the item does not get a "Lost & Paid" status since there is no fee to pay, but we are willing to accept other recommendations from the developer or allow the developer to query the community where you might get input from libraries that are more likely to encounter this problem. 

3. Would a “Lost & Paid” status follow the same settings for a “Lost” status?

If you are referring to the default  holdable, OPAC visible, and "sets copy copy active" settings associated with copy statuses, then I think it's fine if the default matches the defaults for the "Lost" copy status. We may find in practice that some sites make a distinction for holdability and OPAC visibility on the two settings, but those sites can adjust these settings as they see fit. 

4. Would the “Lost & Paid” status also apply to a lost item that has been paid for but later claimed to be returned?  

Just a note that, unless a library enables the "leave transaction open when lost balance equals zero" library setting, once a lost item has been paid, it will no longer be available in the patron's Items Out screen, which is where you typically would go to mark an item as Claims Returned. In the case that this settings is enabled and staff can mark the item as Claims Returned, it should follow the same behavior that is seen with Lost items. By default, it should maintain the Lost & Paid status. However, if the Evergreen site has configured another status through the Claim Return Copy Status library setting, then the status should continue to change to the specified copy status.

5. Can you explain more about the areas that would be supported for this status?
Why is a lost copy status not sufficient? What do you gain by calling it lost & paid?
Where does the new status of "Lost & Paid" need to be displayed and does it have any purpose aside from clarity of information for display?  Is there a need for reporting?

Can you describe for us the reason for requesting a system copy status?  Our concern is that conflating item information (“lost”) with transaction information (“paid”) significantly complicates logic and is often a source of bugs.

MassLNC will answer all of these questions at once since they all touch upon the question on why our consortia think Evergreen needs a "Lost & Paid" status.

To start, I should explain that our libraries see that the payment or non-payment of an item can make a difference in whether they can expect to see the item again. In other words, an unpaid lost item is more likely to eventually reach the shelves again than an item for which a patron has already paid the replacement cost. 

In that regards, the holdability and OPAC visibility setttings for a lost item may differ from the same settings for a lost and paid item. From our perspective, a copy status made sense since it enables control over holdability and OPAC visibility.

Visibility in the staff client is also of considerable importance. We see this visibility as a usability issue. As an example, let's say a reference person has a patron they are helping who wants to know if the library has a particular title. If the reference person looks it up and sees that it is lost, but has not yet had a payment, they might just decide to place a hold on another library's copy since there is a possibility that the item will be returned.  If they see that the item is lost and paid, they probably would still place a hold, but would also take the steps necessary to replace the item. Although it is currently possible to determine the payment status of that lost item, it takes several steps for staff to find the patron who lost the item, retrieve their record, and determine if a payment was made.

Our libraries would also like to generate reports on items that have a "Lost & Paid" status. This report would typically generate a list of titles that need to be replaced. Once the title has been replaced, it would not be necessary, in our opinion, to retain that "Lost & Paid" information for reporting purposes.

MassLNC is willing to consider proposals that offer another solution, but we would want the following requirements to be met:

  • The item is identified as "paid" at the time that the replacement cost has been made, even if the item has oustanding overdue fines and processing fees.
  • The Evergreen site is able to control the holdability and OPAC visibility of the item at a global level. These settings will not necessarily follow the ones that are used for "Lost" items.
  • This information should display in the item status screen (list and alternate views), circulation screens, and in the staff client OPAC view of the bib record.
  • Sites should be able to generate reports on items that have this paid status. For reporting purposes, the data identifying the item as being paid does not need to be retained once the item has been replaced or deleted.

 

 

Re: Enhancements to Evergreen Billing and Handling of Lost, ...

Admin

Vendor questions related to Bill-06

For BILL-06a - Should it be an option to not display lost or long overdue items in the Items Out interface once they are returned?

A setting is acceptable. By default, lost items are cleared from the patron record once all outstanding bills are paid, but there is a setting to "Leave transaction open when lost balance equals zero". This leaves the lost copy on the patron record even when it is paid. Perhaps the behavior for unpaid lost or long overdue items can tie into this setting. For any of the questions regarding the advisability using an option or a setting, it might not be a bad idea to query the community before  moving forward with the work. From MassLNC's perspective, we added a requirement for a setting when we thought the option was needed, but we may be missing a use case that others in the community may think is important.

For BILL-06a - Should the option to display lost and long overdue items in the top Items Out section be two separate options, one for each?

One setting to control both options is sufficient.

For negative bills on a patron's bill: in addition to the refund option on the shortcut menu, which accounts for any refunds in the Cash Report, there should also be a clear negative balance option, which clears the refund without impacting the Cash Report.

Question: does this mean “discard any refundable amount calculated as owed to the patron, such as in the case where a library does not provide refunds at all” ?

Yes.

Re: Enhancements to Evergreen Billing and Handling of Lost, ...

Admin

Vendor questions related to Bill-03

Should a setting be added to handle if the lost fee should be voided if it Claims Returned after be Lost?

A setting is acceptable. We will leave it in the developer's hands to determine if a setting is needed. 

Re: Enhancements to Evergreen Billing and Handling of Lost, ...

Admin

Vendor Questions Related to Bill-01

What are the default settings for the three settings?

  • No Negative Balances for Lost/Long Overdue Bills
  • No Negative Balances for Overdue Fines
  • Refund Lost Max Interval

Our preference is that these settings are created, but by default, there is no corresponding entry for these settings in the actor.org_unit_setting table. The default behavior should reflect the default behavior of the system prior to adding these settings. Essentially, we don't want to see any unhappy surprises from sites that are upgrading and expecting the previous behavior. As such, we would expect the default behavior to allow negative balances for both bills and overdue bills. For those sites that allow negative balances, we would expect no maximum on the length of time the refunds are applied.

Syndicate content