Briefly - a borrower who has consistently over the past few years borrowed books, not returned them, insists she has and bullies our older volunteers to let her take 6 more - last Sunday telling them that our computer needs updating as our Senior pastor allowed her to take 2 a few weeks back when she went to him to complain. Of course she takes our most popular and newly added books and DVDs. She has been banned before but just tells tales to Pastoral leaders who re-instate her. They are now agreeing she must be banned so she has changed her tactics and become threatening to our dear older ladies, bringing them to tears.

I am at a loss how to deal with this gracefully but protecting my team at the same time.

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Oh my!!!  If it is any consolation you are not alone in this problem. We have similar difficulties all the time. These patrons  know exactly what they are doing and apparently have no conscience about it. Quite simply it is theft and deception. It is always the library's mistake. We are told we didn't enter the data correctly in the computer when the books were returned. When we show them that the books are not on the shelf and it would be highly unlikely that several books returned by the same person would all be shelved incorrectly, it still doesn't phase them. We too have had an incident where the patron then went to a minister with their story and the minister came and checked out the books for them.

Here is what we do. We tell the problem patron that they must get a written receipt when the books are returned so it can be shown to us they were brought back. We tell them that without that receipt they will not be able to check out any more books until the overdues are returned.

We also revoke cards. If a patron is six weeks overdue their account will be flagged in the computer with a big red "CARD REVOKED". To take the pressure off the volunteer we tell them to tell the person that it is out of their hands and they will have to talk to the library director about the matter. When we later talk to the problem patron we tell them they must write a letter to the library committee explaining their grievance or reason for the overdues and the committee will make a decision on reinstating the card or not.

Hope this helps. Hang in there. You are not alone.

Thank you, Paul - firstly, how sad that we are not alone in this - what goes on in these people's heads?! 

Your reply is very helpful with several ideas we can follow and I appreciate your time in replying. I was encouraged by you saying it is theft and deception, because I found it very hard to call it that in a church situation - but unfortunately I have to face that truth. 

We have some patrons who are overdue by years. We flag them in the computer in case they come back in but sometimes they don't.

To take a book(s) out and not return it, to me, it is stealing. They are stealing from God. 

Oh, my.  We always think that patrons that come into the library are honest and trustworthy.  I think Paul Adams has the right answer to your situation.  Several years ago (before everything was on computer), I had a woman come into the library with a jacket on with big pockets (even in the hot weather).  In the end, she was stealing our books.  Fortunately, our Sr. Pastor backed me up as he had some books stolen that were under the lectern for him to promote for a new class.  We sat down with her and told her that she was banned from the library. She had done similar maneuvers at the public library as well as a few other church libraries. Interesting thing is that I would see her gone and would walk the halls and couldn't find her (I swear that she would go into bathroom and stand on toilet to hide.

Years later I worked PT at a college in the area.  We were getting new carpeting in the offices and there she was walking through the halls checking the territory.  I saw a security guard and warned him about her.  He said "I see her one second, and then she's gone never to be found".  Lessons learned.  Good luck.

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