Policies for Overdue Materials

We have a number of members who have materials overdue as far back as 2015. We've sent multiple overdue notices requesting the return of the materials and the requests have been ignored for the most part.  Some are children with as many as 8-10 items and letters to parents don't seem to matter.  Many of the members are people I see every week at church and they don't even acknowledge that they have the items or received a request for return.  We do not charge fines for overdue items. 

What kinds of policies do other libraries have regarding the number of items that can be checked out? Do you allow the person or other family members to check out materials when there are already items overdue? Do you charge fines for overdue items?

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  • Hi, Brenda,

    We charge 10 cents per day for overdue items.  We send an email blast to all members who have items checked out each week.  It contains library news and a recap of the person's individual account.  Atriuum software allows us to do that.  the first of each month we send an overdue notice by email and U.S. mail.  After two notices they receive a phone call from me.  When overdue fines reach $10 the account is frozen.  If this happens to a child's account, the parent is notified and the fine also appears on the adult's card so that account is frozen.  We do not allow a person to check out on another's card, therefore, adults cannot check out on their child's card if their own card is frozen.  I know some church libraries don't charge fines; however, it seems that those that do not have the greatest problems with overdues.  Ten cents per day on overdue items should, especially when coupled with mercy when needed, should not pose a problem.

  • We also have many people who check out items and refuse to return them. After the items are a week overdue we mail a notice. We wait a week and mail another notice. We wait another week and mail a third notice. We wait a week and then call them and speak to them personally or leave a message. We wait another week and then call again. We wait another week and will mail them a padded envelope self-addressed and even stamped to cover the cost of the return. After that we revoke their card and if they want to check out again they must return all the items, pay any overdue fines and write a letter to our Library Committee requesting reinstatement, explaining why they refused to return items and explaining why this will not happen again. 

    We are a very large church so our problems may be magnified but since the year 2000 we have lost over $5000 in library materials from people who simply refuse to bring items back. There is really nothing more that I know to do. We did have a volunteer who actually went to the homes of these people to retrieve the items but we stopped doing that due to the danger involved since we don't really know most of these people.

    We have a limit of 10 books or CD's per person and 5 DVD's. We charge 15 cents per item per day but stop at $3.00 per items. We do not allow people to check out new materials when they have overdues but they can get around that by letting someone else in the family check out what they want. We had one family who eventually got card revocations for four family members.

    I recently spent a good bit of time helping a patron locate numerous books on a particular subject. She had about $80 in books but never returned any of them. When I called her she said she had moved out of town and had mailed them by Fed Ex to us. They never came. I called again and she said she would get the tracking number and investigate. Never heard from her again.

    Another horror story is a lady who checked out books on her card and her children's cards. She got about 30 items. The address she had given us was to a motel as was the phone number. Never saw her again. About two months later her daughter-in-law called and wanted to know if her mother-in-law had any books checked out. I told her the story. She said her mother-in-law was a professional thief who preyed on churches. She asked us to please press charges against her but our church administration did not want to go that route so that was that.

    I am not sure why some everyday faithful members will not return items. There is some kind of faulty mindset here when it comes to libraries. Just have to consider this as part of the library ministry and accept the losses and leave it to the individuals and the Lord as to why. 

    • I have numerous stories about books accidentally packed away.  I put them on the lost list for at least a year.  Sometimes I wait longer, but I have had it least 5 books returned after I delete them.  One was on the wait list for 5 years because I was just starting. 

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    • Thanks, Ann. How long do you wait beyond the due date to send an email? How long do you wait after you have sent an email before you send a notice by mail?

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