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Fines and Notices at the Vicksburg District Library

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Adrianne Schinkai demonstrates the computer system at Vicksburg District Library.

By Adrianne M. Schinkai,
Vicksburg District Library Head of Circulation and Reference

There’s a general understanding with libraries when a book is checked out, it must be returned by the due date or a fine will need to be paid. The Vicksburg District Library does this with all its items and has a system of notifying patrons when those items are overdue.

The Vicksburg District Library has more than books to check out. But do items like audiobooks and DVDs have fines if they are turned in late as well? The answer is yes. On the library’s newly renovated website, the FAQ section answers the question simply. “All books, audiobooks, and CDs are assessed a 10-cent per day fine. Video games and DVDs are assessed a $1 per day fine. Items overdue for an extended period are assessed a replacement and staff processing fee.”

With more high tech items such as DVDs and video games being assessed at $1, this can lead to heavier fines in short order. For example, say a patron borrows two books and three movies and is five days late returning them. While the fine for the two books is only $1. (two books at 10 cents each for five days), the fine for the DVDs is $15 (three DVDs at $1 each for 5 days), bringing the total due to the library to $16.

Why the higher fees for video games and DVDs? It’s because of the original cost of the item. Should a video game need to be replaced, it could cost the library around $50 as opposed to the $10 needed to replace a book. This is where receiving reminders about due materials comes in handy.

When a patron forgets to return items for a period of time, how are they notified? That is completely up to the patron. When they register for their library card, they can choose one of two options to alert them that items are overdue: a postcard in the mail or a message sent via email.

“The database we use generally takes care of everything,” says Barry Raifsnider, the library’s cataloger. “Once a week, the database gives me a list of patrons with overdue items. From there, I just print out postcards notifying them and send them out.” While the automatic email sent by the library’s database is an easier process and free of charge, the cost to the library for the postcard and postage is about 45 cents each. An average of 20 cards go out each week.

When books are not returned, however, more official action needs to be taken. Once a month, the library prints up and sends notices that items need to be returned and paid for (especially if they have been lost or damaged), or the patron’s account could face action. A patron’s account is locked when it reaches $5 in fines. Hansen explained, “Items owned by the library are maintained for the purpose of serving the community. When a patron doesn’t return items on time the library has to contact the patron to ask the person to return an item that other citizens might need.” In the past there have been a few instances where other libraries have sent patrons to collections due to overdue, lost, or damaged materials and it becomes a legal matter.

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