Fines for overdue and lost books from this library is more than $200,000

The road code is one of the library's books that often go missing and not come back.
HELEN HARVEY

The road code is one of the library's books that often go missing and not come back.

If it's a book about marijuana, tattooing, surfing or how to drive its chances of staying safe on the library shelf are slim.

The Road Code, a $24 manual on how to pass your driving test, is the most likely book to go missing from New Plymouth's Puke Ariki library. 

But manager Kelvin Day said there were other popular types of books that people struggled to keep track of after borrowing.

Puke Ariki Library has 22, 441 members - and is owed $58,133 for library books lost by 964 people.
HELEN HARVEY

Puke Ariki Library has 22, 441 members - and is owed $58,133 for library books lost by 964 people.

"People target expensive art books and surfing, tattooing, marijuana, those are the ones people tend to target. Non fiction is generally more expensive than fiction, so you could be up for a $50 or $70 charge to replace the book."

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The costs mount up. The library, which has 22,441 members, is owed $58,133 for library books lost by 964 people.

But that paled in comparison to the total of unpaid library fines - $166,447 owed by 7637 people - or an average of just under $22 per tardy borrower.

It was not a big number, Day said.

Books on tattooing - and expensive art books - often go missing from Puke Ariki Library.
HELEN HARVEY

Books on tattooing - and expensive art books - often go missing from Puke Ariki Library.

"We're more interested in getting the books back because then other people can use them. But sometimes books are genuinely lost, people move house or whatever."

The largest single debt was $887.50 for 23 lost items and 11 overdue ones.

Puke Ariki did not ban people from the library, but they did block people when their debt got to $15.

Puke Ariki Library blocks people when their overdue library fines reach $15.
CAMERON BURNELL

Puke Ariki Library blocks people when their overdue library fines reach $15.

Their library cards would not work on the self issuing machine or if they tried to renew books online, he said. 

"That starts a conversation with staff. We try and work with people and we realise people sometimes bring books back late, but instead of waiting until it gets too large we have that conversation."

More than 480 people have had their unpaid library fines passed onto debt collectors - a total of $53,168.30.

While some people prefer ebooks, which were automatically "returned" to the library and thus impossible to return late or lose, Day said the trend was moving back to hard copy books.

"The hard copy book is still very strong. Often people use a combination of both, but the trend is more towards hard copy again. And that's across the world." 

 - Stuff

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