A US library has decided to enforce jail sentences for overdue books in a bid to recover about $200,000 worth of missing materials, a step that could land many forgetful people in hot water.
In its effort to recoup overdue materials, Athens-Limestone Public Library in Alabama will be enforcing an ordinance that prescribes fines and the possibility of jail time. According to a city ordinance, it is unlawful for any person who has a library card to “fail or refuse to return” any materials borrowed or withdrawn from the public library.
Any person who violates the ordnance may receive a fine of up to $100, be sentenced to a city jail term of 30 days or possibly both at the discretion of the municipal judge, the News Courier reported. Library Director Paul Laurita was quoted as saying that resorting to enforcing the ordinance was necessary because offenders are not only stealing from the library, but also from other library patrons and taxpayers.
“The taxpayers expect us to protect their investment. We make every effort to be good stewards of public funds,” she said.
Laurita explained that library would much rather have the overdue materials back than the associated fines. That is one reason why the library has offered programmes in the past to help collect overdue materials or clean the slate in regard to fines.
There are some cases, Laurita said, in which a patron may have several hundred dollars worth of library materials. There are instances in which patrons may lose materials, but there are also situations in which materials get loaned to someone who does not have a library card and that person loses the materials.
If one does have overdue materials, the person will get a reminder via text or email. And if that person ignores those, a certified letter will be sent to that person, saying that one has 10 days to get everything settled.
If that does not work, a court summon will be issued. Ignoring that could result in another fine and possibly jail time in extreme cases.
Police Chief Floyd Johnson said they have made a few arrests from overdue books in the past, but it has not been a common occurrence.