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MIT Libraries Staff Web

Lewis Music Library Student Manual: Circulation

September 2021 Open/Close Procedures

Contents of this tab

On this page is information relating to working at the desk and performing circulation tasks.

Useful links:

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Circulation desk practices and expectations

You, at the desk:

  • At the beginning of each shift, log into your Alma account.
  • Check your Tasks bar on your Alma homepage periodically throughout your shift to see if any holds requests have come through. If there are any new pick from shelf requests, fulfill them.
  • Be aware of any transit bins that arrive during your shift. Process those items in Alma.

Answering the phone:

  • If the circulation phone rings (617-253-5689), answer the phone professionally: "Hello, Lewis Music Library. How may I help you?"
  • Most of our calls are spam.
  • Occasionally someone is looking to get in touch with Avery. Best practice there is to recommend they get in touch with Avery via email: 
  • You do not need to answer any line other than x-5689, the line for the circ desk. (The x-5636 line is Avery's office phone.)

Customer Service 101:

  • You are the front line of contact for all users entering and using Lewis Music Library.
  • As such, greet and acknowledge users approaching the desk, and do your best to answer any questions politely and helpfully.
  • Other behavior expectations:
    • No food or beverage at the desk. If you need to step outside for a snack, please ask us to cover the desk for you.
    • No guests while working a shift. The only people behind the counter should be ourselves and members of the Music & Theater Arts faculty.
    • Avoid personal phone calls during your shift. If you have a special situation, arrange something with Lewis staff.
    • No headphone use while on the desk or shelving. We want a friendly face ready to help our users.
    • No bare feet on duty: shoes or sandals required. (It's an Institute Safety Office rule.)
    • Watch the noise level at the desk; an ordinary conversation can be heard upstairs with perfect clarity.
  • Do your best to assist patrons with their inquiries or ask Lewis staff for help. For complicated research questions, refer to the Reference Questions tab.

Questions? Some things can't be resolved at the desk.
Refer patrons to the following email addresses to address certain concerns:

  • (Why? MIT Libraries likes to have the following common issues in writing.)
  1. patron claims item returned
  2. patron claims "never borrowed"
  3. questions about fines or other account-related issues
  • (Why? MIT can't unilaterally make decisions about materials not owned by MIT.)
  1.  questions about Borrow Direct (BD) or Inter-ibrary Borrowing (ILB) 

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Basic Circulation

Your circulation tasks at the desk include (but are not limited to): 

  1. Checking out/checking in
  2. Marking items as "used" in Alma (opening shift only)
  3. Picking up requests from the stacks & managing the holds shelf 
  4. Processing transit bins
  5. Reshelving (closing shift)

Circ basics:

  • Most of our collections have 60-day loan periods. This includes books, scores, CDs, DVDs, and board games
  • Equipment (like Zoom recorders) are 1-day loans.
  • Desensitize books and scores leaving the library 
  • Resensitize books and scores staying in the library
  • Do not desensitize or resensitize CDs or DVDs
  • Renewals: All regular "MIT Collections" items will automatically renew up to 5 times unless the item is requested by another patron. (Alma is very good about generating emails to users, so they will know when their items are due and if they've been renewed.)

DVDs/CDs circulation:


  • Unlock the DVD case by sliding it through the decoupler in the direction of the arrows; make sure the green padlock symbol is showing
  • Check inside to be sure all contents are there, before checking out to user. If not, do not check out.
  • (Do not desensitize DVD or CD)


  • Check inside to ensure the right number of discs are there, before checking in. If not, do not check in.
  • Relock the DVD case; make sure the red padlock symbol is showing
  • (Do not resensitize DVD or CD); put on shelving cart.

Chamber music scores with multiple parts:

  • Some performance scores contain additional parts in the back pocket. Before checking out/checking in, make sure all parts are there. 
    • When you scan in the item, Alma should always prompt you to check that all parts are in the pocket.
    • Also, the pocket should have a sticker saying the # of parts there.
  • If some parts are missing, do not check the item out/in! Put a note on it saying what the problem is and give it to Lewis staff. If neither of us is here, leave the item in our inbox and send us an email with the details.

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Circulating equipment

Complete list of our circulating equipment.

Equipment loan periods:

  • All of our circulating equipment are on a default 1-day loan period. This means these items are due the following day by closing.
  • However, student workers can give patrons a due date extension up to 3 days. (If the patron wants it longer than that, please have them contact Caleb or Laura for special arrangements.)
  • When you are checking out a piece of equipment, you may notice it has a 24-hour policy. Please manually change the time of the due date to 18:00 (6PM, closing) in order to avoid unnecessary fines. 
  • Similarly, if a piece of equipment is checked out on the day before we are closed (i.e. holidays or weekends), manually change the due date to the closing time of the next day Lewis is open.

Checking in/out equipment:

  • Before you check out or check in a piece of equipment, please ensure that all the pieces are there. (If certain equipment has multiple parts, those parts will be listed on the case.)
    • Alma will also prompt you to do this with a "fulfillment note," when you scan the barcode.
  • *Zooms: power on the Zoom recorders to check the battery life before loaning. If the Zoom has 3 battery bars, it is good to go. If it has 1 or 2, either replace the rechargeable batteries or grab a recorder with fully charged batteries to loan instead.
    • It takes a little while for the Zooms to power on, but it is worth it! Talk the user through what you're doing.


Borrow Direct & ILB items

ILB (InterLibrary Borrowing)

ILB resources can be identified by their white paper bookbands that have the due date highlighted in yellow and a large barcode at the top.

  • To check out, pull up the patron's account in Alma and then scan the bookband barcode.
  • Circulation periods for ILB items vary. Check the bookband for the due date, and manually update Alma due date to match the date printed on the bookband.
  • To return, scan the bookband barcode on the return screen. Then write R on the bookband. Route to Document Services using a "Doc Services" slip and the outgoing blue transit bin.
  • If the item was never picked up and the hold has expired, write NR on the bookband.




Borrow Direct:

Borrow Direct items can be identified by the "Borrow Direct" printed at the top of a colorful paper bookband. Update: Borrow Direct lending has resumed starting 12/13/2022.

  • To check out, pull up the patron's account in Alma and scan the bookband barcode.
  • If you have trouble scanning, type in the MIT-generated barcode, including "MIT- "
  • To return: scan the bookband barcode on the return screen. Then write R on the bookband. Route to Document Services using a "Doc Services" slip and the outgoing blue transit bin.


Questions? Direct patrons with BD/ILB questions to email We won't handle these questions at the desk.


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Course Reserves

Policies for reserve items are uniform across all MIT Libraries. See MIT Libraries Reserves FAQ page. (Rules for each item are on their reserve sticker)

  • 3-hour loan period 
  • Renewals are permitted but not automatic; patrons must renew through their Primo accounts
  • Reserve items can leave the library. (But they are still due in 3 hours!)
  • In special instances, music instructors and faculty may borrow reserve items to the end of the current day. Simply manually change the due date (and time) to adjust

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Headphones, remotes, Xbox controllers "In-Room Use"

Items such as headphones, remotes, and Xbox controllers may be checked out to be used in the library. All items will be due by closing that same day. Simply scan the barcode of these items and check them out as any other item.

  • Headphones are located at the circ desk.
  • Next to the headphones, you'll find remotes and adaptors
  • Xbox games are on a shelf behind the circ desk, and Xbox controllers and guitar controllers are behind the CD stacks, located beneath the Zoom recorders.
  • Make sure the user knows the item does not leave the library!

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Limited Access Collections

The Lewis Music Library houses a collection of facsimiles, rare books, manuscripts, and recordings of MIT music performances known as the Limited Access Collection. 

  • Limited Access Collection is shelved behind the locked "cage" door.
  • These items generally do not circulate but may be used in the Lewis reading room, Monday-Friday, 10am-4pm. 
  • We often make exceptions for faculty or research staff to borrow these items. Please refer all Limited Access collection requests to Lewis staff.

Other original manuscripts and other rare materials are stored off-site. They may be used in the Distinctive Collections reading room (14N-118), open Mon-Thurs 10am-4pm. Appointments need to be requested three business days in advance.

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Library Storage Annex - items in storage

Lewis's physical space is limited, so a portion of our collection is kept in storage. The Library Storage Annex, or LSA, holds close to 12,000 LPs, in addition to videocassettes, CDs, bound journals, and other items. Users may request LSA items and have them delivered to their MIT Library of choice.

  • LPs (vinyl records) from the Library Storage Annex (LSA) usually arrive in special boxes and should be sent back that way.
    • The double-sided card says MUSIC for incoming items.
    • Flip the card to ANNEX or LSA when sending them back.
  • Most items from LSA arrive with user holds
  • Activate the hold as usual by scanning the barcode: Alma--Fulfillment--Scan in Items. Print the slip and put with the item on the Hold Shelf
    • For vinyl LP records, patrons can use Workstation #5 upstairs to make a digital copy. Instructions are at the workstation.
  • Non-MIT users must place requests through the Annex request form 

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MIT Libraries do not charge fines for daily loans except for Borrow Direct/ILB items, hourly loans, and recalled materials.

Lewis equipment will have replacement fees. TBD Fall 2022.

Info on fines

Questions? If a patron has a complicated question about their account/fines, refer them to

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Notice any problems?

Have you discovered missing barcodes, missing music parts, or missing Alma notices on certain items? Let Lewis staff know! Send us an email with the item barcode, if possible, and any other relevant information.

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Circulation during "downtime"

In the event that MIT's server goes down, or you are otherwise unable to access Alma, you will follow "downtime procedures."

This essentially involves recording circulation transactions in an excel spreadsheet to be manually entered in Alma once everything is back up and running. Important details to take down include the user's MIT ID# and the item barcode.

Downtime instructions:

  1. Open the "Downtime Circulation Template" Excel document from the desktop folder called "Circulation Downtime"
  2. Save As Downtime-mm-dd-yyyy
  3. Fill in the required spreadsheet fields accordingly (one transaction per line; no reserves; etc.)