Seriously overdue

<a href="">Seriously overdue</a>: She said they told her they had a warrant for her arrest for an overdue library book and that she had to come up with almost $400 or go to jail. A summons had been rejected on July 2; she said it went to her former address. Martin said she couldn't believe what was happening.


Fines should be capped at the value of the item. If the item gets lost, some percentage above the cost (say, 10%) could be assessed for processing fees. There is no way that any library can justify a $400 fine for an audiobook.

Plus, legally, the constables shouldn't have arrested her if she was not served notice properly.

An item should be capped at its worth and then a replacement fee to cover the costs of labeling/reprocessing the material. I remember at one point my library system charged $1 a day for late DVDs, and if you had 10 checked out, all 10 days late, you were charged $100.00. This policy was changed to .20 cents a day, after many such incidents of hundreds of dollars of fines. Yes, library materials need to be returned, but fines need to be reasonable & policies like capping off fines need to be in place.

While I'm sure the cost of the audiobook was included, I'm willing to bet the majority of that $400 was court-related costs. She paid the money to the COURT, not the library. But, she missed a summons by the court and was found by the police, just as she would have been if she had missed a jury summons or a summons for a traffic ticket.

Why is it when this method is used, the only time it is reported on is when the person has ONE item? Why can't libraries use this method with patrons who max out their checkout limits with DVDs or childrens' books?

That would not be as shocking and titillating to report on.

And I still contend that since she was not properly served notice, the constables should not have arrested her.

First, we have only her word that she didn't receive the summons. If the police found her, they had access to DMV records or other things the library does not in order to get her correct address. It's logical to assume they had her current address. Depending on state/city laws, a summons does not have to be hand delivered to the individual, especially after numerous personal attempts have failed. The summons can be left with an adult at the address, can be left at the person's workplace, or they can get a return receipt if it's sent through certified mail.

We do not get the city's side of this issue, nor do we get any information about whether or not they attempted to hand-deliver the summons. The only thing mentioned is from the library director and it's not specifically about what happened to this woman. The library director says, "Library patrons receive two or three notices about overdue materials before it gets to the point of requesting a summons." That's vague.

The ALA code of ethics probably precludes the director from being able to talk too much about this particular patron's situation.

And thus, we get one side of the story and it may not be completely accurate. The woman can't provide us with details about the city's actions.

'She's borrowed books from the library for years, but is not sure if she's going to check anything out from the library again.

"If I do, I'm not going to forget anything," she said.'

Problem solved.