Library fine by me

I’m a shocking borrower. I am completely unreliable. I forget to renew my books, I forget my due dates, I am constantly late and I am forever paying overdue fines. I like to consider my overdue fines to be my annual donation to the betterment of the local library of which I am a patron.

A few months ago, my mum finally convinced my sisters and me to clean out her garage. This was a mammoth task. I threw out huge, and I mean HUGE amounts of my high school assignments and notes that I stored away over quarter of a century ago. I was impressed by my calligraphy, by my writing style but none of it deserved being kept. Except for this overdue notice:

Overdue Notice

Oh yes! The notice is on embossed paper! I feel so special! Digital overdues can’t compete. There is no mistakening my habitual nature. Here is another one:

Another overdue!

This one is not fancy. It must have only been a first notice. Every time I have overdues I have an excuse as to why I have been late:

– I forgot.

– I didn’t check my mail.

– I lost the due date slip.

– One book slipped under the driver’s seat when I was driving all 45 loans back to the library and the other 44 were on time (well, make that 38 because 6 were from a previous visit).

– My sister borrowed my books and we fought so I couldn’t ask her to return it because a stand off is a freakin’ stand off.

The point is though, that I always return the books. Always. And yes I accrue overdues which I always pay without complaint. A few weeks ago I paid $66. Yep. That is 6 romances just in that one overdue. This time my excuse was that I went away on holiday, lost my charger so I was offgrid for 4 days during which time my overdue notice arrived but I didn’t look at my email until my 13+ items had accrued at $1 a day. I know. A bit “dog ate my homework” but it is true. These overdues were from my uni library which is much more expensive than my local library.

Occasionally, feel good stories of people who return books 65 years after their due date AND pay a huge fine. Top marks to them but I really don’t think I could ever be that altruistic. Perhaps it is my knowledge of library processes that makes me feel this way but chances are that the library would have weeded that item at least 50 years ago. But let’s be clear here – I return my books and I pay my fines. Perhaps I became a librarian, not because I love being a smartass and enjoy finding answers where others have struggled, but because I could control my loans a bit easier. It’s a bit hard to forget to return your books when you are at work every day.

Having worked in plenty of libraries over the years I am always astounded by the type of people that argue fines. It is rarely people like myself who have fines in the high 60 and 70 dollars. Nor is it people who have genuine reasons such as chronic illnesses. They are usually calm and pay their dues, no complaint and quite philosophical about the whole process. However, I have been on the receiving end of many irate and angry borrowers who feel that they have had some grand injustice occur, who accuse workplaces of fixing fees purely to revenue raise (perhaps an innocent comment on my behalf here – but I have never worked in any library that depends on fine money for their services. It just isn’t the way budgets work). Oh no. The shouters and abusers usually only owe a few dollars. I once had a man throw a punch at me (he missed) and call me a “whore of the council” over a $2.20 fine. I felt affronted by his accusation. What an absolute dick. My library whoring is worth at least 66 dollars.

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Image from National Reading Campaign of Canada


8 thoughts on “Library fine by me

  1. Your post was a hoot! I loved reading it. As Little Miss Perfect, when I was growing up, I didn’t have any library fines. I like your carefree and loving ‘tude towards library books and fines. I can’t believe that guy took a swing (sooo glad he missed, the creep) for such a minor fine.

  2. How true! The smaller the fine, the bigger fuss that gets kicked up. I remember one time during my library manager days I had a woman come in and after looking at her account she owed somewhere around $75. Let me tell you, I was already mentally preparing myself for the battle, prefaced my revelation with “I’m sorry to report….” and what does she do? Just whips out her check book and takes care of the whole fine on the spot. Maybe she was your long lost twin or something 🙂

    I’ve worked in a lot of rural and disadvantaged communities in my career. Most librarians are not ogres and will happily work with customers to rectify fines. But we’re a bit like cops. We just expect people to lie to us – because so often they do. And it’s really hard to be understanding and accommodating when you get a guy like the one you had who threw a punch! Good Lord!

    • I have worked in several disadvantaged communities too. I found that they were much more careful with their loans as the opportunity cost was not another book but a meal on the table.

  3. When I worked at my last job, I was invited to present at the local library’s staff development day. I also had an enormous fine I had no intention of paying, and spent much of the day in fear they knew and would throw me in library prison. I wouldn’t make it in library prison. I’m not scrappy enough.
    I’m glad we have food for fines at UTS.

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