Universal Return Instructions

Author: smoody
Posted in: Circulation Services Group

This document outlines the changes to Millennium after implementing Universal Returns and how staff should handle returned items owned by other units. Except in very rare cases, all items will be accepted and checked in by any circulation desk. If libraries have item types that will not be checked in universally, such as course reserves or music scores, patrons should be made aware of this at check out and told to return the item(s) to the owning library. Despite these precautions, exceptional items may be returned to non-owning libraries. In this case, circulation staff should mention to the patron—if present—the consequences of returning the item to the wrong location. This gives the patron the option to return it themselves; however, the patron can choose to leave it. The general procedure for Universal Returns, as well as the procedures to follow for exceptional items, are listed below.


After checking in any item that is not shelved in your unit (including NRLF), you will see a pop-up with 4 options:

Staff should select the last option: Set status to in TRANSIT; check-in. (There are a few exceptions to this policy and these will be addressed below.)

After printing an IN TRANSIT slip, the item from another location will display as checked in:

If the item has a hold, you will see an additional pop-up before you set the item in transit asking you to fulfill the hold:

You can then proceed as normal. Print a transit slip to send it to the pick-up location.


While we want to remove complete and undamaged items from a patron’s account as quickly as possible, there are some situations where it is important to place the item in transit, and NOT check it in. If any of the following instances occur, circulation staff can explain to the patron that the item will not be checked in, only placed in transit, and may be subject to fees and/or fines.


If the item has a message, the message pop-up will appear before the in-transit options. These messages are used by different units to account for various materials (i.e. music scores, colored plates, maps, CD-ROMs, etc.). It is absolutely imperative that these messages are read and that the materials are looked for and counted when necessary.If the information in the messages is unclear or unfamiliar to you, do not assume that the item is complete. Contact the owning unit for clarification before proceeding with the check-in.

  • If the patron returns the item in person and the item is not complete, staff have the option of canceling the check-in by choosing “NO”.  You can then hand the item back to the patron and ask that they return the item—with the missing accompanying material—to the owning unit.

  1. If the patron is not present, you can select “Yes.” This will not check-in the item if it belongs to another unit; it will only forward you to the next step. Because the returned item is incomplete, you should place the item IN TRANSIT, but not remove the item from the patron’s account. Select the third option: Set STATUS to in transit; do not check-in. This will allow the owning unit to appraise the item when they receive it and decide on a course of action (contacting the patron, fining the patron, etc.).


In very rare cases, units may add a message to specific item types that explicitly informs other units how to handle those items.

For this item, follow the procedures listed above. Select “Yes” at this step—again, this will not check-in the item if it belongs to another unit.

Select the third option: Set STATUS to in transit; do not check-in.

If patron is present, you may cancel the check-in by choosing “No” in the first screen and then hand the item back to the patron; but it is also acceptable to receive the item and follow the steps to put item in transit WITHOUT checking it in, as long as you inform patron that the item can only be checked in once it has passed inspection at its home location.


If the item is damaged and there is no way to determine patron responsibility (some units add notes or messages about damaged items during check out; other units do not). In this instance, select the third option: Set STATUS to in transit; do not check-in. This way, the owning unit will have an option of billing the patron if necessary.

4.) IF THE ITEM IS MORE DELICATE/FRAGILE THAN A BOOK (e.g. maps, musical scores, CD-ROMs, DVDs, etc.):

As these types of items can be easily damaged in transit, staff should emphasize at check-out that patrons should return these items to the owning library. If a fragile item is returned to a non-owning unit—and there is no message to indicate otherwise—check in the item and set it in transit. For mailing the item, contact the owning library and ask how they would like to proceed. Some units may be ok if the item is shipped in a carefully packed envelope via library mail, but others may prefer to send one of their student employees to pick up the item.


If a non-owned item is identified as being on reserve, it should not be removed from the patron’s account. Many libraries use colored tape on the spine and/or colored due-date slips to easily identify reserves. These physical identifiers are helpful, but circulation staff may not always notice them, so other methods may be needed.

When checking in any non-owned items, the item’s sublocation will appear at the top of the pop-up window. In the example below, the item belongs at location “Physics-Astronomy Reserves.” For units that have and use a reserves sublocation, this will alert library staff that the item is on reserve and should not be removed from the patron’s record, as we want the patron to be responsible for any fees or fines that accrue while the item is in transit. To help prevent reserve items from being returned to the wrong location, we should continue to emphasize at check out that reserves should be returned to the correct location.

If the patron is still at the desk, select “Do NOT check-in.” You can then hand the item back to the patron and ask that they return it to the owning location.

If the patron is not present, select the third option: Set STATUS to in transit; do not check-in:

As the sublocation on these pop-ups is easy to miss, units may wish to add a message, such as “On Reserve – Fall 2011,” to each reserve item. While this would make it easier to spot reserves if returned to another unit, these messages would also appear during every checkout/check-in.

Additional documents:

Legacy Data

Author: Charis Takaro
Approval Group: CSG
Update Group: Circulation Services Group
Last updated date: 03/18/12

Created: April 28, 2016
Last revised: December 7, 2016
Review date: None set

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