Just Shelley

Guido the Librarian

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I had checked out a book in late July on art and photography. It’s an older book, recommended by one of you, and not necessarily a quick read. It’s history showed I was the first person to have checked it out in several years.

As happens sometimes, I read a bit and then got caught up in the book I’m writing, as well as proofs, and site design. I realized I wouldn’t have time for it until after I finished my book, so I put it down on the gossip bench by the door to take back to the library. I promptly forgot it, until I got a notice a couple of weeks ago from the library. It was ten days overdue, due back August 28.

I immediately renewed the book (until October 10th), which I usually do with overdues, and then dropped it off at the library a few days later. Being distracted, I dropped it off at the county library not the city public library. I realized my error the next day, but the libraries have an inter-department book return plan so wasn’t worried. Not until today when I received another overdue notice, this one threatening to send me to a collection agency to collect the costs of the book if I didn’t return it.

I’m not sure where I was more taken aback: that the county library still hadn’t returned the book, or getting what amounts to a collection agency threat from my local library.

I called and found out the book was returned, and this notice must have gone out the same day. I was also informed that I now owed $.85 (that’s 85 cents) in overdue fines. I refrained from asking if they were going to send Guido over to break my kneecaps and hung up.

I can understand about libraries wanting their books returned on time, and I try to do so, and am happy to pay whatever fines I owe when I’m late. But this: a collection agency? On the second notice? Less than three weeks after it’s overdue? With a $.85 fine?

I checked around and found this weblog post from another person facing the same ‘threat’ from her local library, for what sounds like a book she never even checked out.

This may make sense economically, and from a business perspective, but I feel oddly betrayed. The friendly neighborhood library I once knew from long ago is gone–replaced by this efficient machine more interested in economics than community ties. Oh, before you ask, the public library has a reserve fund of over twenty million dollars, a reserve that gains about a million a year. The people in St. Louis take good care of their library. Too bad the same can’t be said for how the library takes care of the people in St. Louis.

Needless to say, I will drop off payment for the fine next week, when I also turn in my card. As they’ve demonstrated, they don’t want people checking out their books: books are meant to be shelved.

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