That's an expensive book
One library user clocks up $800 billLAUREN HAYES
Many people rack up library fines occasionally – they misplace a book, forget when it is due, or simply don't finish it in time – but few find themselves facing an $800 bill.
That is the largest outstanding fine owed by an individual borrower at Invercargill City Libraries, and is still unpaid.
Invercargill City Libraries manager Marianne Foster said most library cardholders were good at returning items on time, although yesterday there was a total of $60,000 of fines owed to the library, by about 3000 users.
The longest outstanding fine was first registered in 1999, and was now overdue by 13 years, Mrs Foster said.
Books incur a 20c fine for every day they are overdue, until they reach the maximum per-item limit. After that, the library declares the book lost and the borrower must fork out for a replacement copy.
Other items, such as CDs and DVDS, follow the same system but collect a 50c fine a day.
Thanks to modern technology, users can now check their balance by logging on to the library website with their card number, and a pre-alert system warns borrowers via email three days before their books are scheduled to be returned.
If this failed, there was a simple system in place to motivate users to pay, Mrs Foster said.
''If you have fines over $10 then you are not able to borrow anything from the library.''
She believed about 5 per cent of total library cardholders owed fines of more than $10.
Debt collectors were sometimes asked to chase up extreme bills but library staff first tried to use other options to avoid this, she said.
''We prefer to work with people rather than beat them over the head. We don't want to stop people using the library. We want them to use the library more than anything.''
She had heard of a few people using library cards under different names to cheat the system, although she did not think this was widespread.
In an ideal world all items would be returned or paid for but she said the library was realistic about recouping fines. A practical number of unpaid accounts were factored into the library's budget so they were not too financially draining on the service.
There were 3000 overdue books not yet returned yesterday.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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