The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


September 21, 2008

Valley libraries battle delinquent borrowers

Last August Heidi Dalibor, a 20-year-old Wisconsin woman, was arrested, cuffed, stuffed into a cruiser, and booked for keeping two library books past their due date. Granted, it must be noted that she failed to respond to numerous notices from the library and also ignored a police citation that included a court date.

After paying off her library fines ($170), she became the owner of the two books that landed her a mug shot: “White Oleander” and “Angels & Demons.”

If you have some overdue library books of your own, don’t panic. Local librarians assure they don’t have delinquent library book holders hauled off to the big house. Some even hold annual Fine Free Days during which people with overdue library materials can return them and not pay a fine.

Mary Jean Moser, supervisor of Circulation Services at Bucknell’s Bertrand Library, said, “The risk we take — that any library takes — is that if someone borrows a book they may not return it. They might move away to Michigan, and then they’ve got the book.” The library will send a paper notice to the overdue borrower, but if the book is not returned, they simply remove the borrower from their database, blocking them from borrowing further selections. While the Degenstein Library in Sunbury doesn’t have borrowers arrested, “we do use a collection agency for things severely overdue,” librarian Gail Broome said. Though the library tries other alternatives first, books that are more than six weeks overdue are subject to collection.

“Sometimes it’s just easier and cheaper to return overdue books than to hide from the library,” said Kelly Walter, children’s librarian at Herr Memorial Library, Mifflinburg. “If you’ve lost a book, sometimes it’s cheaper to pay for it then to accrue fines.”

The Coal Township Public Library sends out notifications by mail and by phone. “We do pretty good chasing some people down,” librarian Mary Ellen Low said. Those they don’t catch they just let go, because they have found that “eventually people do need the library, and they bring back the late materials.”

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