or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

Library Overdue Policies in the News

   April 27th, 2010 Brian Herzog

Library Police signI'm sure most people by now have seen the story about George Washington having overdue books from the New York Society Library.

This got me thinking about overdue books. The ALA's 2010 State of American Libraries Report was just released, but one statistic it did not include was the number of American households with overdue library material. It must be a high percentage, or else this news story (via LISNews) from Solano County, CA, wouldn't be possible:

Someone has been calling residents posing as a collection agency working with the library, and demanding they provide their credit card number over the phone to pay off fines for overdue material. It sounds like an Urban Legend (but it's not), and since it's on the internet, the same scam might start cropping up in other communities.

My library doesn't charge overdue fines (though we do suspend borrowing privileges for gross offenders), but it's never a bad time to review library policies in case patrons (or staff) have questions. If we did charge fines, I would lobby to implement my favorite tactic, overdue amnesty week, with people getting their fines waived if they return library materials with a non-perishable food item. Or, we could try (passive-aggressive) anti-theft signage.

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