This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, April 21, 1999

April 21, 1999 - DebtCollect

Once I caught a Seinfeld monologue about librarians. The gag was that we're like a kid who keeps letting you borrow his stuff just so you'll like him. It all sounds a little pathetic.

There's some truth to it. We quite consciously hire people who hate to make patrons unhappy. So we take the extra step, and try to find a way to make people walk out of the library with a smile on their faces.

But I have decided that there's one area where we're just going to have to get tough.

Most of the books we check out come back right when they're supposed to. Of all the ones that don't, the first overdue notice (when your items are exactly one week past the date you were supposed to return them) fetches back half of them. The second notice (one more week later) again brings back half of what's still out. The third notice brings back another half-of-a-half-of-a-half. Finally, when an item has been overdue for a month, we send out a bill for the cost of the item.

And this is precisely where we used to be pathetic. Sure, you couldn't check out anything else until you settled up, but some tiny fraction of our patrons never came back at all. They just kept our books.

Well, those days are over. Starting very soon now, once you owe us $50 -- and that $50 must include an item you never returned, not just fines -- we will pass your account along to a collection agency. They will send you another couple of notices, and if there's STILL no response, well, the value of those library books will be showing up on your credit record.

Once you get a letter from the collection agency, even if you bring the books back, you'll not only need to pay overdue fines, but a $10 processing charge. That $10 covers our costs for the collection agency.

Let me stress again that our concern is not to humiliate anyone, or to hassle people about their credit rating. We just want our stuff back. To be perfectly blunt about it, taking library books is theft. After getting four notices from us, and a sprinkling of notices from the collection agency, there's really no excuse for not bringing our books back. Or if there ARE extenuating circumstances, it's still your obligation to call and talk to us. We're not unreasonable people, and weird things do happen to our patrons from time to time. But we take our stewardship of public property very seriously.

Based on an analysis I did a while back, we lose some $12,000 of materials every year to patrons who check out materials and keep them. These people are not our regular customers. Frankly, I don't have much sympathy for them. They steal precisely the books and tapes that are most popular. It takes time and money to replace those items.

So we've come full circle. We're still wonderful friends. We'll welcome your children as our own, and delight them with stories. We'll smile every time we see you, and work hard to answer even your wildest or most frivolous questions. More to the point, we'll lend you some of the best stuff in the world, over and over, things you could never afford to buy on your own.

But bring it all back, hear?

No comments:

Post a Comment