For most people, returning library books falls pretty low in priority on their to-do list. The worst that usually happens when a book isn’t returned on time is a small fee and a disappointed scolding from the librarian.
In Alabama, the Athens-Limestone Public Library is looking to add some more motivation to get their books returned. The library is sitting on over $200,000 in unreturned, overdue books and is looking to enforce 30 days of jail time for patrons who continue to not return their books.
The library allows patrons to check out up to 25 items at a time so a single person could potentially have hundreds of dollars of unreturned library books at their house. The library will continue to send out reminders and jail time will only be a last resort. The police will only get involved after numerous texts, emails, and certified letters from a collection agency are sent out and ignored. The library is trying to give people every chance possible to return their materials.
The library has said that they will not go after children and they are mostly worried about individuals who have hundreds of dollars of overdue items. The library is funded by tax payer dollars and the $200,000 of missing items will be paid for by the tax payers if they are not returned.
The library compares their library card to a credit card. You are borrowing with the condition that it will be paid back or returned. If you neglected to pay hundreds of dollars of credit card bills, there would be extra fines and eventually jail time.
Athens-Limestone Public Library is not the first to threaten jail time for overdue books. Earlier this year, a couple in Michigan was threatened with jail time and given numerous fines for just two unreturned books. It may seem a bit overkill, but $200,000 is a lot of money to a library.
Is not returning library books a crime worthy of jail? Let us know your thoughts below.
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Featured image via Atlas Obscura
h/t Atlas Obscura