Family hit with library bill after theft


A policy which allows children to take out up to 35 library items at a time has come under attack after a stolen library card resulted in a Mapua family being billed nearly $500 for lost books.

A library spokesman is defending the policy, insisting the family is legally responsible for the missing books and must pay the bill.
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What on earth would a kid do with thirty five items during a loan period? We have no limits (!) on children's material (excepting videos and multimedia material, which is limited to two). But most kids only take out maybe ten small books at a time at the outside. When you check out a kid's books and list as long as your arm comes up on the computer, maybe some red flag should go up, regardless of what the policy states.

This does put the library director in a quandry. Four hundred dollars is a lot of money for a family. But it's a lot of money for the library too. The kid is too young to go into indentured servitude and work as a page (which would be my next suggestion).

In our academic library, we have what's called a "proxy patron" where a professor can fill out a form authorizing another person (or people) to check books out on their account. The trick is that we swipe the student's card and then we can choose the proxy patron from there.

Also, some video stores will allow you to add other people to your card, thus giving them priviledges to rent videos with your card. Perhaps libraries could do something like that?

Did Bob call the police and make a report? That would be enough evidence for us that a robbery had taken place and the patron would be off the hook.

What an adorable little kid but is he a fibber that the card was lost? (The missing quarter was a nice touch!) Some of our children lend cards to their friends to use the Internet and to check out materials. When the overdue notice goes out, we've had parents hit the roof. Sometimes the parents understand their child's personal responsibility but in many cases, we’re the meanie-bad guys who don’t understand peer pressure and Jr.’s desperate need to belong. Lost, stolen, lent, is the same thing. Patrons have to report the card is missing since we can’t afford to replace books. When I make school visits, I stress how to report lost cards and never lend or check a book out for a pal on your card. Since we’ve done a little PR, the situation has vastly improved.

A significant number of our patrons don't even bring their card and don't know their card number, so we look it up with an ID and then they have to know their PIN number as well. But of course most people have no idea what their PIN is either! You know, that number you chose when you signed up! What I don't understand about it is that everyone has a bank card that uses a PIN but the concept seems so alien to most library users.

Well, good point.

I guess I feel that there is inconsistency that could and should be eliminated. For example, at my library, there is now in place an extended policy for getting your library card.

You now have to show a proof of identity item (like a driver's licence, something with a photo, AND an expiration date, that proves you are who you say you are), as well as an item that proves your address (like a utility bill, car registration, insurance bill, etc.).

Some items are unacceptable. A county ID without exp. date would not be accepted as valid ID. A hospital bill is not valid proof of residence, etc....

SO, we require all these "proofs" to get the card, but each time a person comes in to use their card, we do not validate anything about them. The card is taken and scanned and items are charged out to the holder of the card. Unless a particular instance comes up where something seems amiss and the person asks what the patron's address is, or other questions, we have no idea whose card we are really using!

Additionally, I have heard that some other agencies are now accepting library cards as THEIR proof of ID for giving other items! It seems like having a photo on the card would be the only way to ensure the holder is the patron for sure. Of course, some library sytems allow for other items to be used for library cards - like driver's licenses.

I would hate to come to close to suggesting that I agree with a state or nationwide ID card system though! I guess I really just don't know yet what the best solution is, and all I'm doing is rambling now...

I don't know. It is a hypothetical, what is your answer?

So, should libraries do a better job of checking patrons/cards?! Should library cards have photos on them!?

Bob has his house broken into and his library card is stolen. Before Bob discovers his card is missing the thief checks out $500 in books from the library. The library did not check to verify that the library card was being used by the appropriate person. As soon as Bob realizes his card is stolen he reports it to the library. The library sees that $500 of books are on Bob's account when he calls.
Who pays? Library? Bob?

But people often give their card to their spouse, kid, research assistant to pick up their holds and all that.What is the point of having a card at all, now that we could quickly look patrons up in the database anyway, except to have them be able to transfer their privileges?

Everyone pays for charges placed on a lost or stolen credit card. All the consumers who use that banks cards are paying through fees. I do not think comparing credit card companies vs. libraries is a fair analogy. Like was said in a previous comment, you need to report a lost or stolen card because you are responsible for it.

While I agree that this is a lot of money for the family, the quotes from the mom seem very whiny, very much someone wanting to blame someone else for her troubles. I'll bet that if the library had a ten book limit, she'd be the first one to complain when her kid couldn't check out all the books he needed for a school report...

The important thing to remember, that not a lot of people think about, is you have to report your library card as missing or lost just like you would report a credit card. Maybe I just had to deal with this a few too many times back when I was a circulation clerk, but I am just amazed that people don't realize that people can and do steal library cards and library materials, and that if it's YOUR card YOU are responsible, as it says in all caps on the front of my public library card.

Back in the days of my circ-clerk-hood, we would usually just have people pay the first $50, like you would with a credit card. But we'd get the occasional thief who would max out his or her library card (or a child's), disappear for a year, then come back for a new card, claiming that the card had been stolen. It's a real problem. I can see how a library might get fed up after a while and make it policy to pay the entire fee.
Another thing to remember, that we would tell our patrons, is that sometimes your home-owner or car insurance covers the theft of items from your house or car. I'm not sure it would cover damages from a stolen library card but it's something for patrons and staff to keep in mind.

Have you noticed that when you go to many video stores they ask to see some ID in addition to your rental card. This is to reduce the problem of people using stolen rental cards to rent movies and then sell them on eBay or somewere else. Libraries should do the same.

The library should have some responsibility to verify that the person they are checking books out to is the correct person.

When I worked in the public library in my hometime, some years back, we had a much lower limit for the number of books that could be checked out at one time on one card.And we had one kid for whom the limit did not apply, and who routinely checked out thirty items every week. (This was a paper system, not a computer-based one, of course; I _said_ it was some years ago.:)) This was because she always returned them on time, and even casual conversation revealed that yes, indeed, she was _reading them all. Some kids really are the people you got an MLS to serve.

Kramer: It's just a write off for them.
Jerry: How is it a write off?
Kramer: They just write it off.
Jerry: Write it off what?
Kramer: Jerry, all these big companies, they write off everything!
Jerry: You don't even know what a write off is.
Kramer: Do you?
Jerry: No! I don't!
Kramer: But they do, and they are the ones writing it off.

If I lose my credit card like Dewey and someone buys 35 books at Amazon, I'm liable for at most $50 of the charges. I assume this is due to legal protections, not the credit card company's good intentions. Shouldn't something like this hold for cases like this as well?

I'm quite sure that I routinely had 35+ items checked out at any given time during the halcyon days of my childhood, when leisure time was plentiful, and I could -- and did -- devote almost all of it to reading.Granted, that was in another country, and besides, the wench is dead.

Not only do I have a problem with the huge amount of items that this library allows children to be responsible for, but more importantly, I have a SERIOUS problem with the fact that the librarians allowed a library card to be used without confirming identity of the user. Library cards are not transferable, and just like bank tellers, we ask that until we get to know our patrons that they provide a second piece of ID (preferably a picture ID) to ensure that we don't have someone else using a card. This is particularly important in Children's services, as oftentimes children are pressured to allow their "friends" to use their cards because that "friend" either doesn't have one, or can't use theirs because of OD's or fines. We have also seen parents attempt to use their children's cards for the same reason. Personally, I believe the responsiblity for this problem is the library's and I would suggest some serious staff training for the circulation librarians.