TV News on libraries' use of collection agencies


Elizabeth Thomsen writes "Here's a consumer story from Boston's CBS affiliate Channel 4 on libraries using collection agencies, and how this can affect credit. They say Most librarians don't want to go this route, but can be faced with fines that exceed $1,000. Many are willing to try anything to keep their shelves stocked. "


"Most librarians don't want to go this route" my arse. Most librarians don't want stuff stolen, and yes that is what it is - theft by conversion.

I say call the collection agencies, call the cops too after all in most jurisdictions it is a crime too.

I never said there was anything wrong with libraries using collection agencies. Doing so, could help with make people respect libraries more, if it is used appropriately.

1. We have received many complements from our community about our customer service. Yet, there are some marketing techniques that we could try that might increase our numbers. Back to the matter, the fact that circulation statistics are falling nationwide has been a serious concern of the library profession for several years now. One cause of this decline is that increasing numbers of people, especially children, are relying on the Internet to find their information. Another source of the problem is that libraries must compete more with bookstores. I am surprised that you were not aware of these facts.2. I am glad that you agree. Yes, people who have just recently been billed should not be immediately reported to a collection agency for at least 30 days. When you used an example like an auto dealership,however, what was I supposed to think? Auto dealerships are businesses that are ruthless in their ways of dealing with people who make late car loan payments. We are not for-profit organizations. We must cater to the needs of our community or we lose favor and ultimately funding.The billing notice for us is very effective in getting most people to return their books when they failed to do so after the first and second notice. We would be making a lot of people uneccesarily angry, if we treated all billed patrons the same way and hastily reported them to a collection agency. Hey, thanks for engaging with me in this discussion. I have nothing further to say.

Libraries and bookstores are two different things. People can borrow things from libraries if you take things from the bookstore without paying they get very upset.

I don't think I ever suggested sending anyone to collection within days of their bill for the book - wait a month or so and then send them to collections.

If your circ stats are down I think it might be because you are not meeting the patrons' needs, not that your overdue policy is too harsh.


I mentioned that circulation statistics are falling. Being so easy to jump on an honest patron after they return a book a few days after they receive a final billing notice for a $5.00 book is pretty damn ridiculous. We have patrons turning in books after their final billing notice all the time. You should not treat those people the same way as you might treat someone whom you couldn't contact after several weeks of trying and who owes $400.00 in fines. The honest patrons who returns their book are going to say "Screw the library. If they want to pretend they are a business, I'll just use the real thing and purchase my books on discount from a bookstore".
For libraries to get on their high-horse and pretend that they are run like an auto dealership, as you mentioned above, is BS. We are public non-profit institutions. Pretending otherwise is like cutting off our nose to spite our face. Libraries get their money from public funds that are highly based on circulation statistics. I am not saying that the use of a collection agency is a bad idea. But, the criteria that you are using is too low. It would upset and inconvenience too many patrons. The costs of using your solution would highly overweigh any benefits, especially since most patrons who get their final notice return their books in a few days afterwards anyway. At least that is what our patrons do.

As you mention, the dollar amount is one criteria. Sending a bill to a collection agency the same day that a patron was billed is pretty unfair, even it they received 2 previous overdue notices. Many honest patrons in our library have returned their books a few days after they receive their final notice and pay their fines. Others, never return their books after repeated attempts to call them. You should not treat the honest patrons the same way you treat the dishonest patrons.

Boo Freaking Hoo!

If they are so protective of their good credit then return the damn library materials. I make the car payment so they don't tow the car away, I pay the electric bill so the lights are on when I get home, I return the library materials on time because someone else may want to use them.

Patrons are not sent to collection a week, or for that matter a month after the books are due. It is after several notices and a bill for the item. I don't want patrons who steal the items coming to the library, stop being so namby-pamby about it. If you don't want to send them to the collection agency send them to jail, as failing to return borrowed library materials is in most jurisdictions a crime. A couple days banged up will not affect their credit rating.

Okay. First of all, people are not sent to collection agency inmmediately, they are usually sent at least 2 or 3 overdue notices first. Then if the lost fees are high enough, I think it has to be at least in the hundreds of dollars in my system, they are sent to collection agency.

With circulation statistics falling, libraries should think very carefully about how they would use a collection agency. Often the billing notice is sent too soon after the due date. If the bill is immediately reported to the collection agency and therefore the credit agencies, many patrons would perceive these measures to be very unfair. I bet that there are many forgetful library users with excellent credit ratings (i.e. FICO scores of 750+) and are very protective of it. If some of these people think they are a little forgetful sometimes with returning library books, they may decide not to check out books in the library anymore. Books are now more affordable from discount bookstores and thus a viable option for these patrons. They might think that the money they paid in fines after returning a book billed to them could be used instead to just purchase one or more books. Plus, they wouldn't risk jeopardizing their credit rating.

What's wrong with libraries using collection agencies? Libraries have the right do to so if they please. Libraries have to be tougher so people respect libraries and library materials.

The stats for my library have been increasing for years. We have materials and programs that people want. In the last year I have started a Spanish language collection and computer classes about Word Processing and Excel. I will be starting a class about choosing & using a digital camera next week. I am also working to develop a class that will allow patrons how to judge the authority of things they find on the Internet. This class will also include the use of the electronic dbs to which our library subscribes as well as the databases to which all Florida residents have access. (Of course I had to postpone development of that class to develop another about the new Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit which begins enrolling 11/15. I have several pharmacists and RNs coming in to help and we have several laptops so patrons can pick the plan best for them and signup online with the assistance of a healthcare professional)
My library's stats are going up because our population is going up too. People are moving into Florida (Why I'm not sure a hurricane will probably blow them back up north within a year:> )

I do have a fantastic advantage. Our library while a memeber of a County consortium is a stand alone library and we don't have the many layers of bureuracracy to go through to get programs, purchases and the like approved. A patron asked today for some books about the history of Alchemy and we had 1 in poor shape. I was able to go to B&T and order a few more without getting approval from anyone or several co-signers on my purchase order. They will be in next week. I am one lucky librarian in that respect. I can fill gaps in the collection and create programs and classes as I see fit, without jumping through hoops.

I think we are probably of a similar mind, no I don't think should go to collections two or three weeks after the book is due... but I don't think they should unreminded for six months either. I think 2 notices 2 weeks apart, and a bill a week after that are plenty. If no response after those and another month has passed then I don't see that a collection agency is too severe. There are collection agencies that have experience with libraries and their patrons. They know that having the material returned is more important than a few dollars in fines. I don't think they are as forceful as they would be if I stopped paying for the car.

I'm probably a bit more pragmatic than you, but I came to librarianship later than most having worked @ IMB for years before changing careers. So I may indeed have a more 'for profit' slant even though public libraries are certainly non-profits.

Thank you for discussing this, just because we don't agree exactly does not mean we can't discuss things.

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