comments

Library books overdue? Take advantage of partial fee waiver

Roseville libraries owed more than $312,000
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
-A +A

The city’s public library system is currently offering to meet customers in the middle, by waiving half of the fee due on late materials.

The libraries offer a few of these amnesty programs each year, including a holiday special in which customers bring in canned food in lieu of funds, to recoup some of the several hundred books and thousands of dollars owed to them.

“At the end of the day, we want to get materials back so other people have access to them,” said city librarian Natasha Casteel.

The city collected $113,000 in fines and fees during the 2010-11 fiscal year. The library system is currently owed $312,000 from customers who owe $75 or more, which is the amount that triggers debt collection.

While the city wants to recover this money, the greater interest lies in recovering books and other materials needed to keep the libraries stocked with an up-to-date collection in good condition for patrons — especially critical as budget constraints strain libraries’ ability to purchase new materials.

Roseville has reduced its library funds in recent years. In 2010, Maidu Library’s hours were reduced and closed on Saturdays due to budget cuts. The city was able to restore those hours in August.

The libraries receive assistance from Friends of the Roseville Public Library, a nonprofit organization that hosts used book sales, and collects membership dues and donations to support reading programs for children and teens.

“Our primary purpose is advocacy — to make people aware of the library and how it’s important, and to augment their budget,” said President Martha Riley.

The group, which now has about 85 active members, originally formed 30 years ago to advocate for a second branch, when the Carnegie Library was the only one in town. The organization now donates about $25,000 annually to the libraries, Riley said.

“It isn’t a big amount, but it’s consistent,” she said. “Over the past four years, with the dramatic budget cuts, we put money into materials. We give them a check to buy what they need.”

Riley, who also serves on the Placer County Library Advisory Board, said libraries charge overdue fees not to generate money, but to get materials back.

Under Roseville’s policy, the library charges 25 cents a day for late materials up to a maximum of $10 for an adult item and $5 for a children’s item.

Customers receive an automated phone message when the item is three days overdue and 22 days overdue. Or they get an email notice when the item is five days late or 24 days late. When the item is 60 days overdue or the borrower owes $75 or more, the account goes to debt collection.

These accounts go to the city attorney’s office, which sends a letter requesting payment or the materials returned. The customer has another 30 days to meet this request, before the account is referred to Placer Credit Bureau for collection.

“The goal is to get materials back because we want to be good stewards of taxpayers’ resources,” Casteel said.

If the fee is never paid or the materials returned, the customer’s library card is suspended.

Roseville’s library system only goes after parents, not minors. If fines were incurred on a minor’s card and the minor is now an adult, the parent or legal guardian who signed for the account is responsible for these charges. Adults with a balance due on a minor card won’t be issued a new adult card until the other balance is paid off.

Casteel said the city is looking at ways to streamline the overdue process and make it less time-intensive for staff and easier for customers. The shift to eBooks may also improve the process, as these materials are automatically returned to the library system.

Sena Christian can be reached at senac@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at SenaC_RsvPT.

----------

Owe fines?
What:
Roseville public libraries are waiving half of customer late fees. Offer only applies to payment of an entire account balance, and excludes movie and video game rentals, and copier fees. Accounts in collections with Placer Credit Bureau are not eligible.
When: Now through Saturday, Jan. 14
Where: Downtown Library at 225 Taylor St., Maidu Library at 1530 Maidu Drive and Martha Riley Library at 1501 Pleasant Grove Blvd.
Info: Call (916) 774-5221 or library.customer.service@roseville.ca.us. Visit www.roseville.ca.us/library.