Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Policy Shmolicy

Anyone who has been to my house will attest to the large number of books everywhere in it. I have bookshelves in my children's rooms, the living room, basement, storage area, and my bedroom. I also have boxes of books in a few storage areas and under my bed. However, I do not normally lose library books. I have a special wicker basket where they are housed until I read them. Once I have read them or am ready to return them, I place them on a ledge in my living room/stairwell and then place them in my library bag as I get ready to take them back.

A few weeks ago I returned a large stack of books - some I had read, some that were close to being due and needed to be returned. A few days later when I was looking at my account online I noticed that two of the books were still checked out to me and would be due soon. I was sure I had returned them, but obviously the fact that they were still checked out to me planted a seed of doubt in my mind. I looked again at home, but didn't find them. I distinctly remembered putting them on the ledge and into the library bag. I cleaned out my van and didn't find them. I talked to a friend of mine who works at the library and she nicely renewed them for me, giving me a little bit longer to keep looking. Two weeks passed. The books were still not found. And I will admit, I really didn't spend hours looking. I just couldn't imagine where they would be that they wouldn't have turned up in that time.
Last Friday I went to the library and explained the situation. I asked them what I should do. They told me that they could put a "claims returned" status on them and things would continue as normal for six months. Then after that point, I would have to pay for them if they were still lost. This all sounded fine to me.
Yesterday I noticed that these books were accruing fines at the rate of twenty five cents each day. Today I called to ask them how this worked. They informed me that yes, fines would accrue. Once my fine reached $5, I would not be able to check out books. I could keep paying the fines as they accrued - for up to 6 months. Then if the book was still lost I would need to pay for the book. If I paid for the book now and it was found I would not be reimbursed, even if it was at the library and was their error. But if I didn't pay for the book I was going to be paying a rather hefty fine depending on how long this went on AND potentially the replacement fee for the book. Either way this sounds like a lose/lose proposition for me, but a pretty good deal for the library. I have asked other people what their library's policy is. Most also seemed to think my library does not have a policy that is very ethical. Most had a policy where a fine was not charged. Instead a hold was placed on that particular item, suspending a fine accruing. Then, if the item was truly lost, the patron would be billed for the replacement of it.

Now, happily, after I came home and tore my house apart like never before, I located the two books- quietly waiting to be returned in the library bag - that my daughters (no one wants to admit which one) were playing a game with.

I am glad the books are found. I am disgusted that my library didn't seem like a very friendly place that wanted to be helpful while I looked for the books in question. Instead, they seemed intent on making a buck off someone who uses the library often and generally takes care of the items that are checked out.

Does anyone know what their library's policy is regarding lost books? Admittedly, I am spoiled by the small town libraries I frequent. They are usually more than happy to give a person extra time when needed to look for a book. They will also renew things more than one time, and some don't even charge fines at all for late items.

Comments/opinions anyone?


Peaceful Reader said...

You are right-a lose/lose policy for you! I am so glad you found the books no matter where they were!

Bailey said...

That doesn't seem very fair for you as the library patron! I don't know the policy of my local library, but it would be interesting to find out about that.

Anonymous said...

I know my library's policy because I used to work there. Fines are charged, but if a book is claimed lost, no renewal is done because the library doesn't want you paying fines and also paying for the book. The library takes 2 weeks to look for the book because sometimes the patron finds the book and sometimes the library finds it. Mistakes are made at times and so the 2 weeks gives everyone time to look. The threshold for fines is $10. At that point, no materials can be checked out, but if there is a search being performed, materials can be checked out. If a patron pays for a book or other material and then finds the item, a refund is given if the person has the original receipt of payment.

Your library's policy seems a little muddled to me. It is a shame that they were not more helpful considering your history, which I'm sure they could have accessed. I do know that we were always especially accomodating to patrons with an excellent borrowing record.

In any case, I'm glad you found the books. Everyone has this happen every once in a while. :-)

Autumn said...

I recently had a lost library book. The librarians kept renewing it so I could locate it, but finally I just had to cave and pay for the book. However, if I find it in the next 6 months I get my money back. I don't think my library has an unfair policy.

Once they tried to say I hadn't returned an audiobook that I knew I did. That would be a hefty fine and lost book charge. I was freaking out. Turns out it was on the shelf, never properly check in. Thank goodness they found it.