Town Square

Lackadaisical library admin

Original post made by $300,000 on Feb 23, 2011

Four years ago the city auditor suggested hiring a collection agency for unpaid library fines. $300,000 is due now, and they are getting around to it. The retired library director has much to answer for.


Posted by Library User, a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 23, 2011 at 4:28 pm

Library fines are a bit of a joke. I have had to pay fines recently because the 2 books I had on hold were on different shelves and I only picked up one by mistake and also because I went to pick up a book after they opened the Mitchell Park library at Cubberley when I had ordered the book for Mitchell Park and they had it on hold at Main and it was too late that day to go and get it.

I paid my fines even though I thought it was their mistake not mine, but I had to ask to do so rather than not be allowed to check out more books until fines had been paid. It would make a lot of sense if you were prevented from checking out books until you had paid the fine or at least spoken with the librarian about it. Or, would that make too much sense?

Posted by R, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 23, 2011 at 6:14 pm

Yes to "no checking out more books if any unpaid fines more than 30 days late."

No to collection agencies.

Yes to "cap the late fee on a book to the replacement cost of that book (including some restocking fee)".

I'd love to see how it gets to $300,000? Is it some families have moved away with unreturned books? Some books late by several years?

Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of another community
on Feb 23, 2011 at 7:12 pm

When the Auditor's office isn't given specific direction and tasks from the City Council, they go off on these meaningless tangents in an attempt justify their existence.

When they are given specific direction and tasks, it's always something politically correct, and usually a witch hunt.

Posted by Money is no object, a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 23, 2011 at 7:21 pm

What's $300,000 to the library people. They know that they can always push through another bond measure to keep our quaint 20th century libraries running.

Posted by Darwin, a resident of another community
on Feb 24, 2011 at 1:04 pm

I imagine that if a patron chekced out 15 or so art books and never returned them, they could easily rack up a fine of hundreds of dollars. I'm sure the library has thousands of users a year, I don't find it quite that obscene that the library could be out 300k, especially if they didn't previously have a collection agency.

Posted by Money is no object, a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 24, 2011 at 1:08 pm

My original post stated that:
"They know that they can always get FOPAL, Ms Fogerty-Swayze and the Wymans to push through another bond measure to keep our quaint 20th century libraries running."

Not sure why the PA Weekly is deleting facts now.

Posted by Library Worker Bee, a resident of another community
on Feb 24, 2011 at 1:15 pm

It's true that this is being implemented as a result of an internal audit of the libraries cash handling procedures. There are any number of library employees that are not entirely comfortable with this new policy.

Posted by Ignored the audit, a resident of Nixon School
on Feb 25, 2011 at 12:17 pm

Worker Bee, explain what you are not comfortable with. Why haven't they collected the money or cleared the accounts that are small or uncollectable?
If I remember right, they were also shown ways to increase open hours without adding staff. Did not happen.

Posted by Downtown North, a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 25, 2011 at 11:40 pm

I think they did add hours after the audit, but I can't be certain. I think the library in my neighborhood opened for an extra hour every day, and that the Mitchell Park library had added hours on a day of the week, but as I said before, I'm uncertain. And then of course they cut hours kind of recently. I'm not sure what the total loss/gain was after all that.

Posted by I love books, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 26, 2011 at 10:51 pm

I'm sorry, but, using a collection agency is *stupid*. Library fines are not like utility bills. We want people to use the libraries. If they abuse it, fine, stop letting them take out books. But viewing library fines as a revenue generator is just plain dumb. Period! No further discussion!! Please, visit your local library and enjoy reading the books!

Posted by Library Hound, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2011 at 5:21 pm

I don't think the collection agency is so much a means to create revenue as it is a means to retrieve unreturned library materials.