Deadbeat Library Patron Tries to Makes Her Point


Writer Christine Berge, who describes herself as a deadbeat library patron and a local (Santa Cruz CA) resident, gives us a "case study" of her overdue book fine in the Santa Cruz Sentinel .

Sharing responsibility for her woes are a wonderful kids book "Alberto the Dancing Alligator" by Richard Waring, her five-year-old son, and an incorrect e-mail address.

Hey mom, check under the bed first next time.


Okay, I'm in a lousy mood to begin with... But how many times do I hear: "But the book is in awful condition?" Yeah. We still have to buy a new copy because she never returned it.

"My email address was wrong!" Well, keep your (#$&#*$ record up to date! How many times do we find LOST WALLETS with library cards in them, try to contact the poor patron, and lo and behold, their number changed. She could have easily kept the collection agency off her tail had she done this.

We really don't keep records because we like to just keep records (we do catalog books for that reason, sometimes, though). We keep records to keep things functional and keep books in the system. Yes, we keep the records we keep to *gasp* help patrons. 'Cause believe me, I don't want to tick some of our patrons off! Eeek!

Finally, she probably would be the first to complain about why there wasn't immediately a new replacement copy of her child's favorite book... Why? Because someone has it overdue and doesn't want to buy a new copy!

Sheesh. End of rant.

Blockbuster created a business model that is built around PUNISHING their customers. Netflix built a model around convenience.
Like Blockbuster it is to Netflix's benefit to have you return movies late. If you return a movie late they send you less movies per month. They have to process less movies and spend less on shipping. But when a customer is late with Netflix they are not PUNISHED.
As Will Rogers might say "Blockbuster ain't free."
Blockbuster is not free but they will never get anymore of my money. I refuse to do business with them. When a business thinks they have won, "HAH, WE PUNISHED YOU AND YOU WILL PAY A LATE FEE!" They are often actually losing. I paid a twenty dollar late fee for returning some videos a few hours late (These were weekly rentals) and vowed never to do business with Blockbuster again. I have been with Netflix for 2 years and have paid around $500 over that 2 year period. To gain $20 Blockbuster lost $500
Relating back to libraries. Whenever possible I think libraries should not be in the business of punishing patrons.

Still, I can hardly imagine that $48 is what it would cost to replace the book. Charging her MORE than it would cost the library to get a new copy is ridiculous. My library has a maximum of $2 per book, and I'm thrilled with that. It's enough to make people want to return books, but not enough to make them hate us.

Also, sending it to collections and possibly screwing up the poor woman's credit rating is insane. This library does not seem to care much about its patrons. This woman's attitude is probably typical: she feels that she does her best to support her library. She's not perfectly organized, but how many parents of young kids are? And despite her years of support, the minute she messes up once, the library slaps her in the face with this ridiculous fine. Librarians have got to stop being so hostile to patrons who are less than perfect if we want them to keep supporting us.

As Will Rogers might say "Blockbuster ain't free."

You bring up some excellent points Biblio. There has to be a happy medium between being held responsible for borrowed items and being held responsible for exhorbitant amounts beyond the cost of late or lost items.

My local library does not have late fees for childrens books checked out on a child's library card. My daughter checks out books and uses the library. When a book get stuck under the bed we find out the next time we check out books that it is overdue and I look for the book and return it.
But for adults they do charge fines. Is it my responsibilty to return items on time? Yes. But I am bad about this and have discovered that I can buy the books that I want to read and I don't have late fees. Buying used books online it is easy to spend under the amount that a few fines would add up to be. End result is that I no longer use the library. and and especially have become my library.
Netflix became successful partially because people were sick of paying late fees at Blockbuster. Technically Blockbuster was correct. You had the item, and you agreed to bring it back at a certain time. You brought it back late and now you have a fine. But then an alternative (Netflix) became available and many people moved to that.
Technically you are correct that the patrons are deadbeats. But I think libraries should watch out that they do not become the next Blockbuster in a NetFlix world.

I love you, Shoe. I'ma print this out and post it in the Circulation Department! And my staff will thus love you too. And so it was good, and it came to pass in the stacks and slipping areas that the wisdom of Shoe handed down from the ether(net) was good, and that Shoe was indeed wise.

I wish I knew how many of our patrons tell us they "never got the notice" that the book was overdue. I don't think it's just a case of not updating an addreses. I think patrons just ignore our little envelopes telling them a book is overdue. And, I'll also bet that the Santa Cruz library allows their patrons to look at their records online (hope so, anyway) - so why didn't our deadbeat patron look at her record to make sure everything was returned? Piece of cake. But, no, it's easier to blame someone else.

My response to this whinging is that the library spends tax dollars (and lots of other dollars), your tax dollars dear patron, on materials and services. We the librarians have a responsibility to manage those dollars wisely. This management includes getting materials back - one way or another.

No sympathy here.


I couldn't have said it better Shoe.

Why does this woman want to blame the library for her failure to return a book. People who don't take responsibility for their actions piss me off.

I agree with April 100%.
Let us look at the other reasoning people were using. LETS PUNISH THIS PATRON. GET HER! WE WILL SHOW HER!

Then the library ask:
Why are our circulation numbers down?
Why did the voters turn down the library bond issue?