The folks who run the Bryan-College Station, Texas, public library system have decided that enough is enough. The system is losing so many books, CDs and DVDs to "forgetful" patrons and, even worse, to those who move to another city and take the items with them, that a collection agency has been hired to help with the problem.
According to Bryan Public Information Officer Jay Socol, the libraries levied $239,000 in fees and fines in 2006 but only collected about $45,750. He said $41,750 of the fees levied were waived.I suspect that the inclusion of so many DVDs, CDs and audio books on library shelves has made the problem much worse than it used to be when only books were available. I know that some people simply misplace an item or two and then forget about even having them, but I have absolutely no sympathy for anyone who deliberately keeps anything that belongs to a public library. I'm all for the idea of turning in a report to credit agencies if that's what it takes to get the attention of those having so little respect for their community.
"Our DVD collection has been heavily raided by individuals," Mounce said. "One family has a dozen DVD's checked out, and they moved and we cannot find them."
The collection agency follows a process to collect the fees. First, it sends a letter to the patron. If they do not respond, a second letter is sent. After the second letter, the agency calls the patron's home and tells them that they will report the overdue fees and materials to a credit reporting agency. If they still don't respond, a report will be made.
"They don't threaten the people; they are very polite and very friendly over the phone," Mounce said.
The agency, which works for dozens of libraries all over the country, charges $10 for each account it pursues and guarantees to customers that the fees it brings in will make the service budget-neutral.