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Library sends police to collect overdue books from five-year-old girl

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by modern_muslimah, Jan 5, 2012.

  1. modern_muslimah

    modern_muslimah Thinking of witty user title and coming up blank


    In Massachusetts, it is a misdemeanor not to return library books. Hence, the library was within its rights to send the police to collect the books. Seems a little heavy handed to me, especially considering that the library was dealing with a five-year-old. I get that lost books costs libraries lots of money but I'm not sure this was handled in a good way.
  2. BigB08822

    BigB08822 Well-Known Member

    From the article, it sounds like the police were sent out to collect a lot of books from a lot of people. I doubt they knew they were going after a 5 yr old in this case until they got to the house. The library may have not even known, they probably just printed out a list.

    Secondly, the child wouldn't have been the target anyway, this is a 5 yr old so their guardian would be the responsible one. That helps assure me that the library nor the police knew they were going to the house and asking to speak to some 5 yr. old kid. If they knew that they would ask to speak to the parents and the parents would be the ones getting scolded for not making sure the books were returned. How could a 5 yr old be expected to remember and even if they did, how would they return the book? Borrow moms car?

    The police officer should have known better than to even talk to the little girl. The mom is either making a big deal out of a simple mistake and/or the police officer took his job too literally.
  3. manleywoman

    manleywoman podcast mistress

    That's what it sounds like to me except that it wasn't a simple mistake when you hear that they had hundreds of dollars in fines for overdue books. Sounds like mom took advantage of her daughter being the target and went to the press about it.
  4. modern_muslimah

    modern_muslimah Thinking of witty user title and coming up blank

    I know that other libraries have put large overdue fines (e.g. $50.00 or more) on people's credit reports. In these particular cases, sending the police may have gotten library materials back into circulation. However, one has to wonder how to tackle this problem on a larger scale without ruffling people's feathers. In a large city, this wouldn't work. Putting fines on a credit report may work but I wonder how effective it is in getting lost materials back and fines paid.
  5. zaphyre14

    zaphyre14 Well-Known Member

    My local papers have covered the story in depth. The police officer did not talk to the child. He spoke to the mother and the child was standing behind her and overheard the conversation, misunderstood, and thought she was going to be arrested. The mother then called the librarian and cursed her. Failing to get "satisfaction" that way, she called the media. Over-react much?

    Charlton is a very small town with limited resources. The books were more than a year overdue. The household had been called and notified by mail; the notices were sent to the library patron - in this case the father. The police were a last resort.
  6. WindSpirit

    WindSpirit OmnipresentAdmeanistrator

    I'm sure it is less expensive to send actual police officers to multiple homes to arrest (? that would be saving money for the town, too, no?) people for withholding library books than it is to try to solve the problem in some other way. After all, the police don't have anything more important to do.

    One word: overkill.

    Especially since libraries can be wrong, too. I got a notice about a book that I supposedly had failed to return. Guess what? Didn't happen. They wanted $32 for it, if I remember right (an esoteric book in Russian no one beside me would probably want to read here). My father said, just pay the damn thing and be done with it. I said I wasn't going to pay for something I didn't do. I'm pretty sure they lost the book since it was around the time they switched to drop-in boxes. Before you had to go inside when the library was open and return the books to a person who cleared your account. It is their word against mine (although I do have a witness since I made that person go out of her way when we were coming back from a trip to drive me to the library so I could return the books) which was part of the reason I chose not to fight it. Even if I "won", they would still think I kept the book which I didn't. Not a fan of drop-in return boxes anymore, I must say.
  7. Skittl1321

    Skittl1321 Well-Known Member

    In a small town, they might not...

    If the police are on the clock, and nothing else is happening, it doesn't waste resources to have them stop by and talk to the mother.

    It sounds like multiple previous notices had been ignored. The family wasn't trying to fight it, they were just ignoring it. I don't think it is unusual at all for cities to send police to collect the book or the fee. It is only news because it was after a 5-year old, which it wasn't...it was after her mother.
  8. agalisgv

    agalisgv Well-Known Member

    I'd say it's rather uncommon
    PeterG and (deleted member) like this.
  9. IceAlisa

    IceAlisa discriminating and persnickety ballet aficionado

    Media hype.
  10. vesperholly

    vesperholly Well-Known Member

    :rolleyes: at this stupid mother. First of all, send your child out of the room. Second of all, explain to her that of course she won't be arrested. Lastly, RETURN THE DAMN BOOKS.
    smurfy and (deleted member) like this.
  11. Tinami Amori

    Tinami Amori Well-Known Member

    That! /\
  12. milanessa

    milanessa engaged to dupa

  13. Kaffeine

    Kaffeine Well-Known Member

    Wow..I'm a librarian and just can't imagine doing this.

    Our system has a limit of $30. Once a patron goes over that limit, they receive at least two notices stating that they're in danger of being reported to the agency. After the last notice, we send their info to our collection agency.

    Even then, their credit report is not immediately dinged, the collection agency will contact them and let them that they have X amount of days to either pay the fines/return the books. Usually it's THAT notice that gets people scurrying in to the libraries to pay:D

    Libraries are suffering big time. My system alone has had to lay off half of its people...and we're a large system so it hurts because staff have been transferred left and right to fill in the holes. My branch alone went from 12 people to 8. Our book budget went from 7 million spread amongst 50 branches..to 1 million. Every book/dvd counts.

    I've had at least several instances where the patron (who is a mom) complains that it's the child's fault for not returning the books. :eek: Nevermind that they (the parent) was the one that signed the card for them and knew the rules/regulations.
  14. modern_muslimah

    modern_muslimah Thinking of witty user title and coming up blank

    I think a lot of people don't understand how important it is to return library items. I have a feeling that a lot of people aren't even aware of the slashed budgets that libraries across the country have encountered. Really, the fines aren't even that important (unless they're really high). The materials are. One library I shadowed at actually allowed children to "read off" their fines instead of paying them. I thought it was cute and it really shows that libraries (well, I'm still wondering about the library in MA) don't have the intention of being punitive.
  15. Skittl1321

    Skittl1321 Well-Known Member

    That's super low- at the rate our library fines ($1/day for most items) if you checked out a few things you'd hit that in no time.

    I have a friend who went to get her perschools son's first library book (in a different system than my current one) and found out she had a $780 fine from when she was 12, on a single book. They went to Barnes and Noble and bought a book instead, and when her husband got back from a deployment they got the son a library card in his name.

    What's weird is she had never gotten a notice, had no recollection of checking that book out (15 years earlier), and hadn't had it sent to collections. Even odder is I swear that library system has had amnesty dates, but maybe you only get amnesty if you go in and claim it, they don't just delete bills.

    Another weird thing is that our library has a drive each winter to help "the needy" pay off their overdue book fines. I wonder if that is only for people who ALSO have returned the material, but are banned from getting anything new until they pay.
  16. IceAlisa

    IceAlisa discriminating and persnickety ballet aficionado

    I am incredibly grateful for the public library service and donate regularly besides paying my taxes to support it. The location that I use has been recently renovated and is just lovely. :) Also, everything is done by email and/or text. Courtesy notices that the item(s) will soon be due, notices that requested item(s) have arrived, etc. Love it!

    This woman sounds like an entitled brat. She didn't receive any of the late notices from the library? The liberary did seem to have her correct address, seeing as they sent the officer there. :shuffle: Well, OK, didn't they think that after over a year the books would be overdue?
  17. agalisgv

    agalisgv Well-Known Member

    Not saying this applies at all to you, but in at least a couple places I've lived, children were given library cards without any adult signing for it. In one case, it was mailed directly to them just because they were a student in the public school district.

    Now, that can be problematic because some parents don't want their children to have library cards because the parents know the children will check stuff out and never return it. So in those cases, I feel for the parents because the library and/or school district basically cut the parents out of the picture, but then hold the parents liable for any losses. Not really fair.
  18. modern_muslimah

    modern_muslimah Thinking of witty user title and coming up blank

    A $1.00/day for non-DVDs is steep as far as library fines go. Even with that fine though, I think you have to have items checked out for a while or have many items checked out at the same time before getting a $30.00 fine. I've returned DVDs to my library late on occasion (it's a $1.00/day fine) and the largest fine I've had is $5.00.
  19. modern_muslimah

    modern_muslimah Thinking of witty user title and coming up blank

    This is true. It also doesn't make sense to me either. With material budget being cut, you would think that libraries would want parents to be responsible for books that there is a better chance of them being returned. I guess the libraries don't want to deny children access to library materials. However, children aren't the most responsible people so the library is playing Russian roulette with getting their books back in this instance.
  20. IceAlisa

    IceAlisa discriminating and persnickety ballet aficionado

    If the library had given the card to the little girl without the parents' involvement, it would have been very likely mentioned in the article. The mother would have said that she knew nothing about her daughter having a library card, let alone having overdue books, which would have been a reasonable excuse. It wasn't mentioned though.
  21. skatingfan5

    skatingfan5 Past Prancer's Corridor

    I'm ashamed to admit that I'm a library fine scofflaw. :shuffle: I did return the books -- ages ago, but at the time didn't have $80 to pay the fine and just let it slide. Now, 20 years later I still haven't paid that fine and my borrowing privileges are revoked. If I didn't have access to the university library, I know I would manage to scrape the $$ together and pay it, but right now I'm focusing more on paying off my medical bills.

    With the university library, they send out a notice once a book is 7 days overdue and then another one two weeks later. After that they will assess a "Lost Book Charge" of $125/book once it gets to 40 days overdue, which is definitely an incentive to return any checked out books. Further borrowing privileges are blocked and if the book isn't returned or fine paid, they can take further action by either (a) holding up registration for courses if a student or (b) deducting it from one's paycheck if you are a university employee. So far it's kept me on "good behavior" wrt to my library interactions in recent years, that is. About 15 years ago, I had my paycheck held hostage because I had managed to compile lost book charges that totaled more than my 2 weeks earnings. :eek: Needless to say, I cleared that up the very same day. :slinkaway
  22. Kaffeine

    Kaffeine Well-Known Member

    If I remember right,

    adult books/audiobooks are charged 20 cents every day it is late.

    Children books are charged 10 or 15 cents. (can't remember)

    DVDs are a $1/day

    We allow one courtesy "waive" per patron...otherwise it has to be extreme circumstance (you were in the hospital, etc) before we will waive future fines.

    Children under the age of 16 cannot get a fully-active library card without their guardian present. If they show up with a school ID and no guardian, we will issue a card..but it is only good for 7 days and they may only check out two items. We also send a letter home to the guardian to sign it so that the child may receive full privileges (in our system, a fully activated card means a patron can check out 50 items at any one time).
  23. modern_muslimah

    modern_muslimah Thinking of witty user title and coming up blank

    I don't think this was the case either. I was just mentioning how some libraries have a more lax policy wrt to lending privileges for children.
  24. barbk

    barbk Well-Known Member

    Our library made the decision not to charge charge fines for overdue children's books. Yes, I'm sure that a few families abuse this, but we've seen too many instances where parents won't let their kids take home books because they're afraid of accruing fines. We think it is more important that children are encouraged and supported in using the library, and that low-income families, for whom fines are particularly onerous, don't have any barriers that might make them less willing to use the library.

    It hasn't been a huge problem. And, remembering the time my then preschool aged D managed to slip a picture book behind a bookshelf at home -- not found for several months -- I'm thankful that fines didn't apply.

    I'd bet we lose far more in adult books that are stolen than we do in children's books that are returned late.
  25. manhn

    manhn Well-Known Member

    I am soooo bad about returning items on time. But due to this thread, I just renewed my stuff so I have another 3 weeks to return them. Thanks!
  26. victoriaheidi

    victoriaheidi New Member

    My library is such a pain sometimes, but our fines have gone down in the past year...I think they went down to 15ยข/item/day overdue.

    They also set up the best thing ever-email service to remind you 3 days in advance of the book being due! I've been saved a whole bunch of times because of that.
  27. mrr50

    mrr50 Well-Known Member

    The mother is an idiot, but I see a problem using the police. It makes it seem that the police have nothing else to do. If that is the case, the public now thinks they know where the city can save money.
  28. zaphyre14

    zaphyre14 Well-Known Member

    Once again, Charlton is a very small town. Until about 20 years ago, their police chief was the only full-time law enforcement officer they had. It's only been since the real eastate boom in the '80s when some farms were developed into housing that the town has had enough tax revenue to hire full-time police officers. Even, so there's not a lot of crime there (at least compared to the surrounding towns) so I can understand why it might be considered cost-effective to send police out to remind people about their overdue books rather than have them driving aimlessly around rural roads "on patrol" or just sitting in the police station waiting for the phone to ring about a shoplifter down at the Xtra-Mart or a fender-bender at the post office.

    I don't know the Charlton library fine system, but my town library hasn't changed it's fines since I got my library card decades ago when I was 6. It's 2 cents a day and they only count the days that the library is open. :) The fines top out at the replacement cost of the book. This is because of the (ridiculous) way the library funding is structured. Overdue book fees go back into the town's General Budget Fund while the Library Book Budget is funded by fees from Dog and Cat Licences. (I know, it doesn't make sense, but that's the way it's set up.) So the library does a lot to promote dog and cat registration and almost nothing to collect overdue fines, since they don't get to keep that money.

    I'm also assuming that the only reason the media picked up this story in the first place was because it was a slow-news day.
  29. Skittl1321

    Skittl1321 Well-Known Member

    I live in a small city. Our police don't have a lot to do, they have time to drive by my house 3 times a day when I'm on vacation. They have time to stop and have a chat. They'd have time to collect a library book if needed, though I doubt they ever have.

    That doesn't mean the city wants to get rid of them. We know they are there for when we do need them, but as a tax-payer, I'd much prefer they didn't have much to do. It means nothing is happening in the community!

    (Although it baffles me that our city apparently has a SWAT force, but we don't have a paid fire department.)

    (There was an article recently about Detroit only having it's precents open during business hours- ours only are. I had no idea that large cities had 24 hour non-emergency stations. Though I suppose it makes sense for more dangerous places- you may want police help, but not need 911. Here, you can only go in from 9-5, otherwise you have to call 911.)
  30. Ziggy

    Ziggy Well-Known Member

    Great use of police resources. :cheer:

    Whilst the mother is an idiot, this is ridiculously heavy-handed.