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Borrowed item must be in hand for in-person library renewal

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Question: I went to renew a book at my local library, armed with my library card, book title and bar code number, but without the book. The desk librarian told me I could not renew the book in person, but could "step outside and use my cell phone" to call him at his desk and renew that way, since it was then a "phone renewal." The head librarian confirmed this policy not to accept in-person renewals without the book is for the whole system. What’s going on?

Answer: Revised administrative rules, adopted last August by the Hawaii State Public Library System, requires people renewing library materials to present the item and library card at the time of renewal.

The new policy, approved earlier by the Board of Education, covers renewals made by phone or in person at a library, said spokesman Paul H. Mark.

The loophole: "Obviously, we have no way to verify that patrons renewing over the phone actually have the items in hand," Mark said. "However, we assume that they do because they are providing the books’ bar-code numbers."

The policy was changed because of problems library staff faced when people asked for bulk renewals without having all of the materials present.

"This led to patrons becoming confused over the status of items that could not be renewed either due to requests (by other patrons) or because the item had already been renewed previously," Mark said.

People with large numbers of items out also were having problems, such as losing track of what had been renewed and what had not.

"As a result, patrons sometimes incurred fines and became upset or angry," Mark said.

With this new policy, he said, library staff can now let patrons know which items have been renewed, asking them to write the due date on the item, and which ones need to be returned by the due date to avoid any late fees, he said.

Question: I have a relative going to Japan on April 30. Can that person have a full refund from the travel agency?

Answer: Most, if not all, airlines with flights to Japan offered to waive change fees or to issue refunds, but only for flights that were canceled immediately because of the earthquake and tsunami, or for flights within a certain period.

However, Americans are being advised not to travel to Japan for an indefinite period, so your relative might be able to get a flight waiver or refund.

In a "Travel Warning," the State Department now "strongly urges U.S. citizens to defer travel to Japan at this time" because of the "deteriorating situation" with a nuclear power plant and the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami.

Just a day earlier it had issued a less urgent "Travel Alert" advising Americans not to go to Japan, with the alert expiring April 1. For updated information, go to and click on "Japan," or call toll-free 888-407-4747.

Write to "Kokua Line" at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or e-mail

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