Woman cuffed, booked for not paying library fines


A Wisconsin woman has been arrested and booked for failing to pay her library fines.
Twenty-year-old Heidi Dalibor told the News Graphic in Cedarburg that she ignored the library's calls and letters as well as a notice to appear in court.
(Thanks to Gary for the headsup)


The woman did not get handcuffed for overdue books.

She got handcuffed for being a scofflaw--which she admits in the story. She simply ignored a summons to either appear in court or pay the fine. "Simply ignoring" summons is pretty much the textbook definition of scofflaw.

And, in municipalities with low crime rates, it's a pretty good way to get arrested. Courts really, truly don't like being ignored.

I suppose you could argue that theft of public property--another way of saying "failure to return library books upon repeated notice"--should never, ever be treated as a crime. But that's a tough case to make.

Yes, not returning public property you borrowed would be theft. Theft is a crime, so throw the cuffs on her. However, indeed the problem here was that she refused to appear in court, thus triggering her arrest (courts tend to dislike being ignored). So, please, stop making it sound like it was some poor old lady got cuffed over not returning her pink novel that was overdue for a day and owed a 25 cent fine. The lady is a deadbeat scofflaw pure and simple not deserving of our sympathy. Throw her in jail already. Maybe she will learn her lesson.

P.S. Do you think you can teach your filter I am not spam.

I had to explain to my mom that, with a $30 fine for 2 books, the young woman probably had the books out for several months...

All the while ignoring phone calls and letters for them to be returned. And it was probably after 3 months the matter was turned over to the courts, and the young woman ignored the summons.

She got exactly what she deserved. Libraries loan books, not give them away to selfish, ignorant brats.

And who else isn't shocked the woman was only 20? And that Mommy had to bail her out?

"It's not faaaaaaaaaaaaaaair! I didn't knoooooooooooooowwwwwwwww I had to return them. It's not fair I had to go to court or pay a fine or grow up!"

I work at a Library Director for a state agency in Minnesota and find the comments thus far over the top and much too harsh on a person not returning two overdue books. Do we really want to start having people arrested for not returning overdue books?

Do any of the respondents (Walt, Dances With Books, or Anonymous) see any public image problem this will create for the Grafton Library? I personally would not visit any public library that had law enforcement arresting people for overdue items. There is quite a bit of harsh judgment in the law and order Anonymous (why can't you sign your name, Anonymous?)

What ever happened to someone from the library visiting the person to get back the books before having law enforcement do that?

The library made repeated efforts to contact the person. She admits that she ignored their calls, their letters, and finally the next step, a court summons--a step I suspect the library didn't take lightly.

You say, "I personally would not visit any public library that had law enforcement arresting people for overdue items."

As a taxpayer, I would certainly have problems with my own public library simply saying "We're not ever going to bring law enforcement in just because you won't return our materials." Or is there a dividing line? You can steal two books--and, if you don't return a book after repeated requests to do so, "steal" is the only word that really applies--but not ten? You can steal ten books, but not 100? When you steal community property, you're stealing my property--and you're reducing the usefulness of the library that I help to pay for.

Nobody was arrested for overdue items. The young woman was arrested for being a scofflaw--for ignoring not only repeated library requests but a court summons. Similarly, very few people get arrested for letting parking meters expire--but if you fail to pay your fines, sooner or later the courts will deal with you as a scofflaw.

Possible PR problem? Sure. Lots of things can cause possible PR problems, including standing up for intellectual freedom--but I suspect that a flat statement that "we won't ever use law enforcement just because our collection walks away" wouldn't be great PR either.

I would think a dividing line could easily be created using the cost of the items. Set a minimum amount of 100 dollars, 250 dollars, or whatever. Isn't that in essence what the court system does (small claims court, etc.)? It should be something set by the library board in conjunction with the city/county government.

So it is OK to steal a ten dollar library book, but not a one hundred dollar library book.

Not from the library my taxes support thank you.

Setting a monetary limit that is not limited to the cost of ONE item, but includes everything a particular patron has outstanding. Set a monetary limit would help narrow down the list to the worst offenders (the ones who have the most expensive or numerous books). I'm not so naive to believe that the library would be able to expend all its efforts and money to get back every single book that was overdue or stolen. Apparently mdoneil's library must be one of the few exceptions to this. Hey, maybe I'm wrong and I'm just too cynical.

Also, aren't some of the comments on this story directed at the small number of books she had out and the minor fine she had? I would think having some kind of policy in place that would better define when the library turns things over to the police/courts or collections would be a benefit. It would lead to less PR problems, better customer relations, and better use of city time/taxpayer's money.

It might not be the number of books, or the value of books but perhaps the number of ignored notices would be a good delimiter.

I don't work at a library anymore, and I didn't work at circ, but occasionally a patron would call the reference/adult department and say they lost a book or had already brought it back. Of course we made not of this on their patron account.

If she had called the library and said I'll bring them by next week, or I lost them how much do I owe, that would have gone a long way.

When I worked in the library we did have the occasional patron who wanted to provide a new copy of a book to replace one they lost. We are actually not supposed to do that, but charge the retail price which would compensate us for the book and processing. Twice patrons brought me books because they damaged or lost them. I could not turn these people away and I just took them to the technical services department and processed them myself on my lunch hour. Those are the ones with the whacky covers. I'm not real good at that part of the job. I figured a book with a little wrinkly plastic is better than no book and an annoyed patron. That and I'm a pushover.

I don't suppose the library cared if the patron ignored the summons. However the Court frequently takes a dim view of people ignoring their orders.

So I think the young woman was not arrested becuase she failed to return or pay for books, but more specifically because she chose to ignore the order of the Court. I was a police officer for a short time many years ago and people were always amazed that the Court would issue a capias simply because they didn't do something they were ordered to do such as go to driving school or pay a fine or mow their lawn.

Walt is right, if you ignore the Court, they will treat you as if you had ignored the Court. If she simply went and told them she lost the books and had no money I trust the Court would have made suitable arrangements for her to pay over time, or pick up litter, or something similar. It amazes me the number of people who simply think ignoring something will somehow make it go away.

Just how many careers have you had, mdoneil? (No sarcasm here, just mild curiousity).

I have had 33 jobs. Of those only 3 or perhaps 4 have lasted longer than a year full time. Some were part time gigs, some I decided I didn't like so I did something else.

I also enjoy school very much and I have several degrees including an MLS (an 2 other Masters degrees and 4 undergraduate degrees) I even got a BS Info Studies because I found out 6 credit hrs before completing it that it was not required for an MLS. Oh well live and learn (it was not my first undergrad degree so I think I had done 34 or 37 hours of of those required beyond what I could transfer in from my other undergrad degrees.

My jobs of longer than a year were RN, Manager at BigBlue, Librarian at a public library (18months) Manager of intranet search at a Big4 firm.

Others have included they guy that picks up the dead people for the Medical examiner, paramedic, cop(9 months -everybody I started with was laid off due to budget cuts), waiter X2 no more than 3 weeks total I am a very bad waiter. Bartender, rock truck driver, my first job was towel washer at a hair salon when I was 13 six hours a week. I have sold women's shoes, and was selling a pair to a man when the Challenger blew up. I have been a bill collector, bank teller, I worked at Dairy Queen for six minutes - they wanted me to deep fry frozen hot dogs and I was not going to get burned by throwing frozen meat into hot oil and that was not the normal way to cook hot dogs. DQ sent me a bill for my uniform shirt. I still like DQ because they are part of Berkshier Hathaway and I hope they are still doing well when I retire on their stock.
I was a garbage man, a toll collector, a gas station attendant (I was robbed), and at least a dozen more I can't remember. Of course they were not in that order. I have not tried to list all of them in years, somewhere there is a complete list floating around my house squirrled away in some drawer.

I had been in school at least half time from 1983 until 2003. I was not required to pay back my student loans until that time (although I did start when I started working full time at an 'adult' job). My first adult job was in 1987 with Peat Marwick (which soon became KPMG) I worked on audits of non-profit organizations. I hated it. I don't work for KPMG now. I am back in school - my hiatus lasted two semesters. I like school. I am finishing this year a MA in Irish Cultural Heritage from the University of Ulster via DL, and I am waiting to have my doctoral proposal approved, this time at UNISA (Operations Research). My research involves knowledge seeking / seach workflow modeling and optimization.

I have always wanted to farm and raise goats and sheep, but not to eat. I would have liked to have been a fireman, but I think I am too chicken to go running into a burning building. When I retire (if all goes well in 7 years) I plan on moving to Merida, Mexico and going to medical school at Universidad Mayab. I don't want to practice in the US, but I would like to be able to do more volunteer work with the group I have been doing medical trips with as an RN for the last decade or so. I have always wanted to learn electrical engineering too, but I have never had the time.

More than you probably wanted to know.

You are all overlooking the important facts. She checked out a Dan Brown book. She kept the book long enough that she possible may have read it more than once. She got what was coming to her!

She was arrested because she didn't communicate with the authorities. First the Library (as an agency of the City/Town) then the courts when she didn't respond to the Summons.
At any point before they turned up on her door she could have solved this issue.

This is probably true whatever country you are in that if you don't deal with an issue stemming from a council agency (be that accommodation, rates, libraries) the natural progression is a court case and potential arrest. Doesn't matter how small the amount is. In fact in the UK if you've gone through the other stages you could also be incurring Balliff fees which could add hundreds to the amount you owe anyway!

If this gave you pause (and a chuckle) watch the Seinfeld episode, "The LIbrary." Mr. Bookman meet your colleagues.

There is a picture of her on the wisn site (I cannot post it because I am not logged in) and I think she looks too dumb to read White Oleander and for that matter Angels and Demons.

I think the primary point I was trying to make was lost. None of the library staff got involved and went to her house to ascertain if she could return the books right then and there. Getting law enforcement and the judicial system involved before having a library staff visit is wrong and boneheaded.

I am personally also against library fines since fines send the wrong message to lower income people. It basically tells them that the library doesn't want them using the library if they can't follow the correct library policies and procedures. The message sent by assessing fines on people who can't afford to pay the fine is counterproductive and would lead them to not using a vital public informational resource. This is opposite of what libraries should do for those that have literacy challenges.

Going to the patron's house. That is simply absurd. Who pays for the gas? Where is the extra staff for this to come from? What if the patron is nuts and armed. Going to patrons' houses is simply out of the question. They mail overdue notices to the address of record and if the patron ignores them they follow their policy of protecting city assets by having the police invite her to pay. If you will notice from the article some of the other people the police notified of their overdues did pay for them on the spot.

Lower income people get the wrong message because of library fines. What message could that be - if you don't return your library books on time, or renew them, or at least get in touch with the library there will be consquences. It does not 'basically tell them' anything. It is quite clear, if you can't follow the rules like everyone else there will be consquences.

Why should people with 'literacy challenges' have different rules than everyone else. If I am innumerate can I drive the car at 100MPH in a school zone because I can't understand the numbers on the sign. No of course not, so the numerically challenged get no special set of rules nor should those with literacy challenges.

I agree completely with mdoneil. I would never, ever visit a patron's house (at least not with out the police right there with me, and probably not even then). From what I understand from the article, the court summons and arrest were the last resorts. Many other things were tried and failed.

On the fine issue, you can't just generalize it to lower class families being deterred. I'd say more often it's those that abuse their library privleges that are deterred. Sure, some of those are low-income, but some aren't. I don't have actual statistics on this, just my own observations. I'd say things like means of transportation, location of the library, lack of recreation time, rising cost of practially everything are more deterrents than fines.

I have to agree 100% with everything stated above.

I also have to add that at least at the public library I work for, it is rarely the lower income people who have a problem with the fines - it is the people who can pay and who think that they are immune from fines and loudly complain about having to pay them. (I was going to use the b word but I just read the posts about swearing).

Wow, LISNews sure has changed, people are agreeing with the cranky republican guy.

I never thought about it, but you are right. In the PL where I worked the poor people brought the books back on time. It was the soccer moms who raised the biggest stink about two bucks on a DVD their kid has had in his bookbag for a week.

"It basically tells them that the library doesn't want them using the library if they can't follow the correct library policies and procedures."

Yes, I don't want them using us if they can't follow correct procedures -- as long as the procedures have been explained or the patron could inform themselves about the procedures with minimal effort.

I'm guessing the fines/no fines argument comes down to whether one thinks that access to libraries is a right or a privilege. Philosophically, I agree that access to the library and use of its materials should be unimpeded, but as a tax-supported government agency, we're tasked with being fiscally responsible -- which means that we will pursue theft (intentional or not) of our materials.

Your life sounds fascinating. Have you thought of writing a memoir (seriously)?

I would sell fewer books totalled than Nancy Pelosi did on the first day.

I can't write about my life because it is not over yet. Perhaps then I'll put it down. " The life and times of an opinionated Republican librarian. "

I can see the amazon counter just spinning.

I am amazed at some of the arguments proposed for not having the Library Director or other library staff member stop by and see if there was a problem. What happened if the person had died so that was why there was no response to the repeated modes utilized to contact the person.

I checked on Grafton, Wisconsin. It is a town of 10,312 at the 2000 Census according to Wikipedia. I am sure that one could walk to her residence either to or from work so one wouldn't need to make a special trip. Why does one have to waste gas driving a vehicle?

Are all of you afraid of library patrons? What is up with that? I believe that our job in libraries is not to expect people to always come in and see us. You also need to go out in the greater society as a librarian and visit people where they are (businesses) and market what you can do as a librarian for them. Sitting in an office or behind a desk all day is not a option in our fast-paced world.

You could always bill the person for the books and have the city attorney get involved so law enforcement doesn't need to create a spectacle of handcuffing someone for ignoring a court summons which was caused by not returning 2 books.

The comment about the library user not being able to read the books that she had checked out reveals more about the elitism of the person making that stupid comment.

"You could always bill the person for the books and have the city attorney get involved so law enforcement doesn't need to create a spectacle of handcuffing someone for ignoring a court summons which was caused by not returning 2 books." Um...at some point doesn't law enforcement or the courts get involved. My library does the city attorney route, and if no response, then it goes to the district attorney. I believe the court system is involved at that point. If the courts are involved, law enforcment is too--when people don't respond to the courts.

It doesn't matter the size of the city. That is still time and manpower many libraries don't have. Surely we could spare one person? Not at my library. We're extremely understaffed and with even one person gone, it's a difficult thing to manage. Many libraries are in the same predicament. At my library we not only serve our city of 22,000, but also the entire county and the six, yes six, surrounding counties. Just not feasible to visit every person with overdues, even the extremely overdue.

The comment about paying for the gas, I believe, was meant to illustrate that would be part of the job and therefore the employee should be compensated by being paid and receiving reimbursment for the gas/transportation to get there. I know my city's officials would not like the extra costs that would go for this.

"What happened if the person had died so that was why there was no response to the repeated modes utilized to contact the person." Then the patron's family would be responsible for that. I have seen many families do just that, and often we waive fines in those instances. If no family, then I suppose nothing would happen. I don't know too many people that would like the idea of the library filing against someone's estate for 2 overdue books. To address the sentiment behind your statement, I don't think it's library staff's job to check on the welfare of every individual who has overdues on the offchance that someone has unfortunately died. I don't mean to sound heartless. It's just not within the scope of our duties.

"Are all of you afraid of library patrons?" Umm...yeah. At least some of them. You tell a patron that they have overdue books to return and fines to pay. I've witnessed many patrons not take that news well within the library building. By not taking it well, I mean yelling, cursing, throwing things, threatening my life (over a 5 dollar fine--I guess that's all my life's worth), keying library staff's cars, and vandalizing public property. Can you imagine how some people would react if you showed up at their house and told them that? If that make me sound afraid, then so be it.

1) Insurance regulations would prohibit library staff from conducting library business during their off hours.

2) Insurance regulations would prohibit visiting patrons at home to collect overdue materials. Visiting people at home for violation of rules, regulations, or laws is not a normal activity for librarians, thus outside of the scope of their employment and outside the scope of workman's compensation insurance. Police officers' actions include visiting people's homes for transgressions of local rules, regulations and laws and their insurance takes this into account.

3) If the library adopted a policy of checking on patrons who have not returned materials to see if they were dead, the library would have to institute a policy for each possibility - including dealing with an ill or injured patron. This action subjects them to additional liability including that for improper adherence to the policy and possible death or injury resulting from their action or lack thereof.

3a) The extensive training for this added responsibility would take library staff away from their primary mission of serving library patrons at the library and in traditional library outreach activities.

3b) Any additional training may require licensure and adherence to additional regulations. As a hypothetical if library staff were trained as EMTs and paid by the municipality that could add the burden to provide pre-hospital care to a national standard, with ambulances certified to the KKK-A-1822 standard. Any visits to patrons that might be ill, injured or dead would require medical control, an infection control policy, a storage and disposal plan for infectious waste - even if none was ever generated, and numerous other standards even if they were to do so without recompense. Violation of these standards can be a criminal as well as civil violation.

4) Walking to the patron's home brings additional risk to the library. The library is presently responsible for maintaining the workplace - the building and its appurtenant rights of way. If we extend the work area by requiring library staff to walk to patron homes we increase the area under library supervision leading to a requirement that the library fix sidewalks blocks away from the library should they be dangerous and on the path to patron homes. Police and firefighters do regularly respond to persons homes using sidewalks and this risk is specifically addressed by law, the firefighter's rule makes it quite clear that police and firefighters know their jobs can be dangerous and accept that risk as a condition of their employment. Librarians, and as in the case above other municipal workers, do not and thus should not be exposed to hazards not unlike police officers and firefighters as a routine element of their employment.

5) It matters not if we are afraid of patrons. Patrons may be afraid of librarians on their doorstep. Police officers, as used in the matter being discussed are identified by their uniform, police car, and other accoutrements of their profession. They are best suited to attend patrons at their homes to avoid inducing unneeded panic in the patron by having strangers ring their bell and ask for library books or cash.

6) Outreach programs of any library certainly may include venturing into the community to provide information about the library, conducting library card registration drives at community events, or piloting the book mobile around town. Going door to door is not an aspect of any of these appropriate activities.

7) The patron was billed for the books, the city attorney was involved. The library cannot force the patron to comply with their overdue notices. The only body that can force anyone to do anything is the Court. The Court was involved, and insofar as the patron refused the call of the Court a Capias was issued and she was brought before the Court, albeit by proxy by being allowed to satisfy her obligations through the jail rather than having to cool her heels until such time as a general session of the Court reconvened.

While it would be delightful to have the resources to make a librarian available for home visits to patrons who request such, we must be realistic in knowing that there are finite resources available. If people are encouraged to return their materials, and if they do so in a timely manner which does not require the police as an adjunct of the Court to require compliance with the law, then perhaps the library would be able to maintain its collection and provide enhanced patron services.

Suggesting that librarians go to patron homes to deal with overdue materials is foolhardy and ill advised. Perhaps it is you who are not thinking critically.

Okay, I live near Grafton and 1. It is an understaffed library. 2. Though a smaller community, it is a spread out community that covers a large area. Therefore it cannot be assumed that someone can just walk right over to her house or assume that she would be home or that she would answer the door etc. Though I understand what you are saying and do not completely disagree with you, you cannot assume that there is time to walk over there or that it can be walked. Also, the PL I work at has numerous rules and something tells me it that the administration does not think too highly of sending librarians to people houses. I would think there are legality issues.

I have decided to respond to mdoneil on only a couple of points. I am sure that our different viewpoints in approaching the situation result from the clash between her republican values and my democratic values (I am much more comfortable with the label of being a "progressive populist")

The Library Director in Grafton, Wisconsin could stop by and visit any library patron under any legitimate library business reason without having to worry about insurance liability.

Libraries exist to serve members of the community. Lodging an argument that you have finite resources can be used as an excuse to provide poor customer service and is not an effective public relations stance to take. Every library has finite resources.

I don't think that extensive training is needed to have a library staff member stop by and ask for 2 books to be returned to the library. You are making the easy overly complex if you really believe that extensive training is needed.

Don't you think that you are creating more of a future danger to your library by handcuffing a person prone to use violence or threats of violence?

The fact that library fines cause some people to get angry is another good reason to not fine people for having overdue items. The intent should be to get the items back not to make individuals pay the fine.

I don't think that library staff should be trained as EMTs.

"Lodging an argument that you have finite resources can be used as an excuse to provide poor customer service and is not an effective public relations stance to take. Every library has finite resources." Libraries have limited resources, but we can't mention that when we explain why we don't go to patron's house, why we don't do tech support, why we provide this database but not that other one, why we aren't open 24/7/365. All because it could be bad PR and customer service. It's not an excuse, it's the truth. We can't be everything to everyone all the time. We have to make choices of how best to serve our patrons and the community.

A library director can NOT do whatever they want. They answer to their bosses (library board, city officials), and those bosses answer to the taxpayers and library patrons. I've never been a director, but I have witnessed the b.s. that my two bosses have been through. Every single action has to be approved by not just the library board, but also city council. Sometimes it is to the point of absurdity. Something like this would definitely not be approved. Too much liability for the city. Yes, liability exists as a major issue for city governments. Case in point, we couldn't have volunteers help move books from one building to the building next door because the city was worried about liability and accidents.

And what if the patron does keep a gun by their front door and is the type to shoot first, ask questions later? (Extreme circumstance, I grant you, but plausible). You have to be prepared for possible scenarios, just as you would within the library building. Being prepared involves training and planning.

If the Library Director was going to people's homes who have massive overdues what about his/her other duties?

I am certain we share the same sentiment about the library being a welcoming, inviting, community resource and we want to do everything possible to get the public to use our services. It would be doubly valuable. As the community gets to know the library and its value, they will tell others in the community and the value of the library just snowballs - as it should. Then come tax referendum time everyone will think highly of the library and not begrudge them the extra ten bucks per household because they provide wonderful services, programming, and a fantastic collection.

However should a library director - liability issues notwithstanding- be going door to door for overdue books? I don't see that as a good ROI.

One can always come up with a hypothetical that points out something that could happen but usually doesn't happen in real life.

Don't you think that the person shooting someone will be held responsible by the judicial system for their extreme action? Someone could come into the library and shoot a library staff member or library staff members as well over a fine.

I think that most library boards would be willing to allow the Library Director to recover books by personal visitations (a rare occurence) if the Library Director wanted to do that.

I am somewhat amazed by the absolutism that I see in several of the respondents. Where is your flexibility of thinking and consideration of alternative actions?

Yes, I am absolute that this would not work with my library or any library in my area. That is all I can base my opinions on. Maybe some library, somewhere this would work. The only way I could think of is an small town, and I don't mean 10,000 people either. I could see this working in my hometown of 1,500 people. Maybe.

Yeah, library boards might approve, but I notice you didn't mention the city council. I think most would prefer it to go through the proper legal channels of the courts, and if courts are ignored, the law enforcement. If someone stole a park bench from a public park(public/city property as library books are) and it was known who had done it, the cops would be involved to retrieve it, not city employees from the parks department. Yes, that's hypothetical too, but how are library books any different? One more hypothetical, what about those patrons that have moved? How do you track them down? My library uses the court system for that.

As for the shooting situation: If someone came and shot up the library there is a good chance of having witnesses and less chance of someone hiding/dumping a body. I also know the layout of the library a lot better than I know a patron's house or neighborhood that I've never been to before. "Don't you think that the person shooting someone will be held responsible by the judicial system for their extreme action?" Yeah, I'm sure they would be at some point in time, but that's not the point.

I see your point at looking at alternatives. But when mdoneil and others give you very valid points against it--or at least things to be considered before implementing this, you just dismiss them as hypotheticals. Mdoneil's were very business-oriented things I would hope my city officials would seriously consider. These things are not hypotheticals to those that are responsible for the safety of their employees.

I wonder what your thoughts are on libraries that use collection agencies. Just curious.

I doubt that library boards would allow library staff to recover overdue items by going to patron homes.

Read the board minutes for yourself and decide.


The director is shuffling one thousdand dollars around from one staff expense to another, and taking funds from a carpet fund to pay other expenses. I don't think there are enough hours in the day to collect two overdue books from someone's house.

I have plenty of 'flexability of thinking and consideration of alternative actions' as I have demonstrated time and time again in this post. Just because I don't think what you think is good idea did not mean I did not consider it.

You think sending library staff to collect overdues from patron homes is a good idea. I don't. I don't think anyone else does either. It is simply absurd if you want the truth. There are so many reasons not to do it that far outweigh any possible reason to do it that to even consider it at length is an exercise in futility.

Where's yours?

I have decided that I completely out of touch with what I should be doing when it comes to patrons not returning books.

We as librarians should stick it to library users whenever they violate our library policies since showing forgiveness and mercy won't allow us to get overdue books back or get needed fines that provide some level of support for the library. We shouldn't coddle library users at all. Library users will only understand that there are consequences (being handcuffed and taken to jail for not returning books) to disobeying library policies. We must be willing to use the full phalanx of law enforcement, attorneys, and

How does everyone feel about the following consequences for not returning library books or not paying library fines?

Overdue books -- 30 days in jail (serve 8 hours a day)
Unpaid fines (after 30 days of nonpayment) -- 15 days in jail (serve 8 hours a day)

We need to adopt a law and order mentality or else users will continue to take advantage of us.

Did any of us ever say that we would NEVER show forgiveness or mercy? I don't recall seeing those words. If someone makes an effort at ANY point in the process of the library's efforts to get the book back, then yes, mercy could be shown. Simply getting the books back is often enough to waive the fines associated with the books, replacement copies for lost books (often way cheaper for the patron to do this), or payment plans can be set up and the patron can have borrowing privleges while the pay off the fines. Many options there that qualify as mercy. If someone had unfortunately passed away, yes mercy could be shown and I did indicate that my library does that. If someone steps up and acknowledges they have a fine, damaged a book, or lost a book, we work with them towards a solution. It could be total replacement of the book or a fine to cover the cost of a new cover or waiving the fine in certain instances. Again, mercy.

But for someone who blatantly refuses return the books, to repeatedly ignore the library's efforts, to receive several overdue notices and toss them aside, to ignore repeated phone calls and attempts by the library to make contact, to ignore a court summons--then no, I don't see the point in mercy. Once the books are collected or paid for, at least at my library, she would have had her borrowing privleges again--so there's the forgiveness. We let her come back to either do it again or get it right.

Our options depend on the willingness of the patron to participate in the retrieval of the books. I'm sure you probably don't think that's fair. There will always be people who take advantage. They do while we have fines, and they would if we didn't have fines.

Sidenote: I'm surprised you resisted saying we should have thrown the book at them. I know I wouldn't have been able to resist that particular pun!

Two things I forgot to mention as other options: fine amnesty day or week where all we ask is for the books back and waive all fines associated with those books, or a canned food drive to cut fines down (1 can=x dollar amount). That is helpful to those patrons with existing fines or even those who return overdue items and bring a few cans with them to cover those fines. It is also helpful to whatever place you donate the cans to (food shelters, women's shelters, homeless shelters, salvation army, red cross, this list could go on an on). That option benefits more than one aspect of a community. My library has done both options, and while we didn't get all or even a majority of overdues back, it was worth it.

The only thing I could see as a problem with these options is they require patron participation. That is one thing lacking from the woman in the story. Sure, she might have used one of these options, but in my opinion, she probably wouldn't. That would require knowing this option was being offered. If she's willing to ignore a court summons, she's probably going to ignore a letter or advertisement of a fine amnesty or food drive.

You are just being silly now.

However it is the law and if you don't like it change it. The rules are clear, the law is clear, and it is enforced. Seems very reasonable to me.

If we don't have laws and if people feel they can flout the law we get the lawyers involved and we end up with nonsense like:

"There is no controlling legal authority that says this was in violation of law."
-- Al Gore,

The Changed My Mind posting was meant to be sarcastic if case you were wondering as a reader.

I believe in showing mercy to even the scofflaws of society. Library privileges could be revoked from a person that is a habitual offender in not returning books.

I don't believe in throwing a book since you may damage the book. :-)

We agree on something. I wouldn't want to damage the book either!

Long ago I read somewhere may be in women's world magazine that if you have library fine, you may call some 1-800 number to ask for forgiveness of the fine. I did not write the number down but that may be a way to help someone in need.

Ask the cicrulation staff, if they can't help you ask to speak to the librarian in charge of circulation, not because you want to disagree with the staff, but that because of extenuating circumstances you cannot pay the fine.

In most libraries they will come up with some creative way to help you if you really can't pay the fine. Many libraries have a fine forgiveness week, or canned goods for fines week, so they will be able to help those who truly need help. Their goal is to get the items back in circulation, and you back to using your card.

Most library fines do not go to the library but the city or county general fund, so the few bucks they let you slide on is not such a big deal to them. (some libraries do get to keep the fined, but if it has several branches it usually goes to the county or city).