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Library fines...a confession and a search for advice


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So...I'm historically awful about returning books on time. Even when I worked at a library as a teen I returned them late. But I do return them, usually a week late when I get off schedule with my library trips. I pay the fines, and feel guilty, and move on.

 

Well...at the end of the year our kitchen flooded into our family room. We had to move all the furniture out, box every thing up, etc. We still have no drywall in the family room, and it is full of boxes of new cabinets, the kitchen is gutted, lots of stuff is in storage in the garage, etc. I actually had to move out for a few weeks. In all of this I totally forgot about our library books. Then the christmas holidays and no school, so still forgot. Then we took time off school for DS to learn how to use the cool tools for the remodeling. Plus we have all the books for his reading assignments for the rest of the year, and I've been too busy/tired to read. Well...we ended up finally remembering a few weeks ago. I returned everything (I thought). I just checked and I still have the mozart CD and my husband has a CD as well. They have billed us to replace them, so when I take those back that will remove about $23 dollars off my bill. But until then, my bill is............$143. I cannot afford that. I'm panicking.

 

Do you think if I throw myself at their mercy they will let me work out something, or am I never going to be able to use the library again, or at least not until I pay that off, which is a long time coming...

 

Given my history of late fees I don't know that I would let me off the hook easily. sigh.

 

I hate this. I hate it I hate it I hate it. I might need ADHD meds just to be able to use the library. I'm so embarrassed I don't even want to talk to them, and haven't told my husband. He would flip.

 

Any great ideas on how to approach this?

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I would start by talking to the library. I hope they can reduce the fine for you. Then, I would rethink your plan for using the library. For us, we go every week at the same time. I also use the online account for our library so I can renew books at home if we can't make it into the library that week.

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I would just talk to them about making arrangements to pay off the fines. Does your library offer email alerts for when you have books coming due? Those emails are a lifesaver for me. Sometimes I still mess up. I just paid off a $60 fine but most of the time thanks to those emails I return on time.

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I don't know how to approach the library. You may just have to make payments until you can use your card again.

 

But I understand the fees, though the most I've paid is $36 a few times. I've gotten better with two things...

 

I have a basket near the door where all library books are kept. If you aren't reading it currently, it needs to be in the basket. Only THE book you are reading is allowed out of the basket.

 

When I get home from the library, I put the due date in my Google calendar. It sends me an email reminder. I leave my email reminders (I use them for many things) unread until I complete them and I have my Google account set to keep all unread email at the top. Because of this, I get reminded about my due library books every time I open my email.

 

I still pay fees but never more than a couple of dollars.

 

 

Finally, all of our books for school are checked out using an educators card our library offers. This card allows me to check out books for 5 weeks instead of three (with two 3-week renewals) and has no late fees. Because I can only check out 50 books with this card, the kids and I still have regular cards too.

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I don't know about getting those fees taken off (our library has a fine free Friday every month).

 

Going forward though - you might consider setting up an account for libraryelf.com - you can set up to have it email you as much as you want (I set mine to email me every day with 1. what's due / overdue, 2. what's waiting to be picked up at the library). I get an email 3 days before an item is due.

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Thanks all. I had gotten really good for a while, as we were going to story hour every wednesday. Then my son started a co-op on wednesday, and that ended that. I need to make it a weekend activity I think for the family, or an evening activity just for me, sans kids, after DH gets home. That would be divine.

I think they do have email alerts, but I don't always get them. I may need to check my spam filter.

But first i have to earn my card use back.

 

ugh.

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:grouphug:

 

Throw yourself on their mercy and hope for the best.

 

The only way I was able to avoid overdue fines was to go to the library every single week and return all books every week, whether they had been read or not. Sad but true. I supported the San Diego and Chula Vista libraries financially before if figured out my own system. :glare:

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I would start by talking to the library. I hope they can reduce the fine for you. Then, I would rethink your plan for using the library. For us, we go every week at the same time. I also use the online account for our library so I can renew books at home if we can't make it into the library that week.

 

 

More trips, fewer items checked out each time. This works well if there is a library near you.

 

Definitely try to get online renewal. Also, I can renew over the phone as long as I can tell the librarian my account number, so you could post those numbers near the phone.

 

:grouphug: Don't feel bad, many of us have been there. My husband teases that I am the only person he knows that rents books from the free public library. Truth is, there are lots of us. I don't know what they use the fine money for, but I like to think my fees paid help to add some new books or at least some Chinese take-out for the librarians. :D

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Ugh, I am SO sorry! Fines can really add up :( I hope your library will work with you somehow... I know it's embarrassing, but it can't hurt to ask.

 

Does your library allow you to login to their system to view your account, renew books, etc.? This is a total *lifesaver* for me. I also am really about about late returns, but now that I have gotten into the habit of going online to review, I rarely have problems anymore. Every week I go online, view all my checked out books (my library system will sort by due date if I click on that column). Then I renew all the books that are due within the next week, *even* if I plan to return them before their due date. I also search the card catalog and put stuff on hold so I don't have to search for everything when I do get to the library. It's turned out to be a very helpful system for me, as we have gotten more use out of the library as well as fewer fines.

 

I always do this on Monday or Tuesday, whether we are actually going to the library that week or not. I put it on my weekly To Do List so I make sure I don't forget to do it (at least the renewing part).

 

You also might be able to call to renew, if you can't do it online. More of a pain, but still better than late fees.

 

I also keep all our library books in one location. DS is allowed to have ONE book in his room for reading.

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I have paid some ridiculous fines in the past too, so I sympathize with the problem.

 

Return the books / CDs right away, because the longer you have them, the bills go up. Ask them if you can return them but without paying the fine right now. They will probably grudgingly agree, so only meanwhile you will not be able to use the library. (By the way, some smart libraries have altogether got rid of fines and simply do not allow you to use them until you bring back all the materials you have, and ironically, people DO that and they do not have more problems with excessive lateness or losing their materials than other libraries.)

 

Also, I second the online or phone renewal options if they have those.

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More trips, fewer items checked out each time. This works well if there is a library near you.

 

Definitely try to get online renewal. Also, I can renew over the phone as long as I can tell the librarian my account number, so you could post those numbers near the phone.

 

:grouphug: Don't feel bad, many of us have been there. My husband teases that I am the only person he knows that rents books from the free public library. Truth is, there are lots of us. I don't know what they use the fine money for, but I like to think my fees paid help to add some new books or at least some Chinese take-out for the librarians. :D

 

The pathetic thing is they DO have online renewal. You can only renew a certain number of times, but they have it. I just forgot I even had books out with everything going on. Normally if I have a fine it is about $5....and that is maybe once every few months. But putting it on the Google calendar would help a lot!

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You know what? You are not the only one who gets in this position. It happens! If the librarians are usually nice to you, then they will be nice to you about this. If they are grumpy, they are grumpy over all sorts of things, not just late fines :-).

 

And your post reminded me I have books due back today! I went online and renewed some that were due today, but not all cuz we are done with them. I better take them back!

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Usually, I find that librarians are willing to work with you on fines. Believe me, I know! In fact, I'm probably as bad as you, if not worse, when it comes to returning books on time. So I've adopted the motto that "For me, a used bookstore is cheaper than the library!" Sad, but true. Something to keep in mind for future reference.

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:grouphug:

 

we stopped using the library, because we calculated that the twice a year i forgot to return things cost us more than buying them originally would have. before we took that step though, we used only the children's cards to sign things out, as their fines were cheaper than the adult fines, even for adult things.

 

really, i think you need to go and talk to them and ask what you can do to get it reduced. and then listen. the worst case is that you are where you are now, so it can only get better, kwim?

 

:grouphug:

ann

 

eta: one time when i asked the librarian if there were anything she could do, she said no, that the only time the fines stop accruing is if a person says they have returned the material and then the librarians have to look on the shelves for it in case it got mis-shelved after not being scanned. when that happens, they stop charging late fees until they've had a chance to look for it. then she paused for a moment, entered something in the computer, and said that they hadn't been able to find the item on the shelves after i said i'd returned it (which we both knew i had never said), and wasn't it nice i had found it at home, and that i owed only for the two weeks it had been overdue before i told them i had returned it (which i never had). i was so grateful i just paid what she said and then sat in the car replaying it all to figure out what had really happened. other times, i wasn't so fortunate....

Edited by elfgivas@yahoo.com
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1. Library Elf is your best friend, even if your library does emailed reminders, and even if you pay the minimal fee for the more deluxe subscription.

 

2. Make Library Elf one of the tabs in your opening browser window. Every morning when you open your internet browser, you will be reminded to do "check my cards" and see when you next have to worry about renewals.

 

3. LE lets you click through from LE directly to your library's online renewal system.

 

4. Write your library card numbers and passwords on a sticky and tape it firmly to your computer monitor. This eliminates a step (finding the card) in the renewal process, so it takes only a few clicks.

 

5. Keep a basket or bookbag where your library items live when they are not being used. Before going to the library, go on to LE and double check that you have all of the items you intend to return. If you have a regular library day of the week, you can designate the previous day "library materials gathering day".

 

6. If you don't have a regular library day, think about which regular errands or stops are near the library. When you do one of these trips, bring whichever items you are done with, to minimize the amount you have out.

 

7. LE also emails you reminders four days before a book is due, then again three days before, then two, then one, then every overdue day.

 

I cannot say enough good things about LE - it is well, well worth the small fee. It is even more so if you routinely get books from more than one library. It has saved me a small fortune.

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First, give up the guilt over fines. IMO, you have nothing to feel guilty about. They charge a fine and you pay it. End of story. So, don't approach this as "they may not give me any leeway what with my history of racking up fines". Look at it this way, "As you can see, I frequently rack up fines and pay for them. I am happy to support the library in this way. This time, though, it got the best of me. Is there any way that you can work with me?"

 

You think your history of having fines makes you look BAD. I think it makes you look like someone who financially supports the library.

 

I rack up a lot of fines and pay them. They love us! :D

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I'm in the same boat - I owe somewhere around $400 to the library. I can't afford to pay it either - I tried to see if we could work something out and they refused to take payments without me paying half up front {I can't afford that either}, so we just don't use it.

 

I've found for me it's cheaper to just buy the books used myself than to deal with the fines. The only thing we use the library for now is summer reading and their used bookstore area.

 

 

And the really sad thing if - I have a branch library a block away from my house, and I still got fines.

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I've asked our library to work with me on fines a few times over the years, and they have been very willing to do so. I had a fine of almost $100 about a year ago, and they reduced it to about $40. That's still not great for a library fine, but I was more than willing to pay that instead of the original amount!

 

I think if you explain the situation, you'll find they'll be willing to help. I know my library would.

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Ok, just signed up for Library Elf. It will remind me of items due every Friday, and will email me daily about overdue books. My library system would email me only once, so this is much better. It will also send me a text message :)

 

Now, should I call the library or go in person to discuss this? I would have a just turned 2 year old whirlwind with me if I go in person. Not sure if that will garner sympathy or be annoying. Also, go during the day or in the evening? Main library or the small branch I usually use?

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Do you know any of the librarians? I know the one's who are sympathetic and nice. I also know the one's who are snotty and hard to deal with. I would try to go to one you know is nice. I think I would bring my 2 year old because than they can see that your life is hectic. :)

 

I don't know any of them. The branch I go to has self check out, and I pay any fines online usually.

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I would go to the library and talk to a librarian who knows you.

Try explaining the situation and see what happens.

 

I've been given grace before. Somehow I ended up with a $38 dollar fine and I had to pay only $8.

 

When we have books out I tape a notice to my desk which reminds me when the books are due. And then, if I know we can't make it back to the library on time I will call and renew them (we can renew twice). We also have one specific location where library books are supposed to live (in our house, so they don't get lost).

Edited by JessReplanted
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Library Elf! And my library emails reminders, which is good. I check every other day or so, just out of habit, and renew anything that's even CLOSE to coming up due. Even if I think I am getting to the library the very next day, you never know, so I always renew whenever the due date is getting close.

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First, give up the guilt over fines. IMO, you have nothing to feel guilty about. They charge a fine and you pay it. End of story.

 

I agree. I consider it a user fee :)

 

My card currently has $75 in overdue fees, so we use the boys' cards. A few times a year, the libraries in our district have specials on fines--one library offers 50% off your fine, another allows you to bring in canned food to reduce your fine.

 

Many times the library will negotiate with you, especially under circumstances like these. But I go to the Children's Librarian for this--they tend to be a little more understanding.

 

It is embarrassing, but know that you are far from the only one. Every time I pay a fine, I just joke that we are pleased to make an extra donation to the library.

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First, give up the guilt over fines. IMO, you have nothing to feel guilty about. They charge a fine and you pay it. End of story. So, don't approach this as "they may not give me any leeway what with my history of racking up fines". Look at it this way, "As you can see, I frequently rack up fines and pay for them. I am happy to support the library in this way. This time, though, it got the best of me. Is there any way that you can work with me?"

 

You think your history of having fines makes you look BAD. I think it makes you look like someone who financially supports the library.

 

I rack up a lot of fines and pay them. They love us! :D

 

HA I use to feel this way, until I found out the truth, the truth is in our area, they just go to the general tax fund. THAT MADE ME MAD

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The pathetic thing is they DO have online renewal. You can only renew a certain number of times, but they have it. I just forgot I even had books out with everything going on. Normally if I have a fine it is about $5....and that is maybe once every few months. But putting it on the Google calendar would help a lot!

 

That's not a bad track record. They might be willing to forgive the fine because of the flood. If not, pay it off when you can, what else can you do?

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I am so glad someone mentioned using their children's card! I totally forgot my son's is on a separate account! It had a small fine on it which I paid, and I will start making payments on the other one. In the meantime I can use his to get school books. I also signed up for library elf, so that will help tremendously!

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Do you think if I throw myself at their mercy they will let me work out something, or am I never going to be able to use the library again, or at least not until I pay that off, which is a long time coming...

 

I've worked at our library for the past four years. Their mercy may depend on many things. I would start by talking to a library staff member. Do you have any favorites? I would ask that person if they have any suggestions for you, and I would ask them for the best person that you should talk to.

 

They might have a specific policy, and a branch manager or director (or fill in the blank) might be more lenient than another.

 

If you don't have anyone you can ask, just ask any of the staff. Don't tell them that you forgot everything, don't give excuses other than you are a(n obviously) regular patron, you didn't realize so many things were overdue, you cannot afford to pay, and what other options do you have? Can you pay 1/4 of it today, in cash, if they wipe out the rest? Do they have a grace period anytime during the year where they will wipe your account balance out? Will they let you work off some of your fine (at $5 of $8 per hour)?

 

I hope you find a few sympathetic ears. :grouphug:

 

(FTR, at our library, if you have an outstanding fine, over $5, and we find out that you are using your child's card for which you signed, both cards will be blocked until you pay your fine. Our reasoning is that you've signed to be responsible for your children's card, and if you can't be responsible for yours, you lose those library privileges.)

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I've worked at our library for the past four years. Their mercy may depend on many things. I would start by talking to a library staff member. Do you have any favorites? I would ask that person if they have any suggestions for you, and I would ask them for the best person that you should talk to.

 

They might have a specific policy, and a branch manager or director (or fill in the blank) might be more lenient than another.

 

If you don't have anyone you can ask, just ask any of the staff. Don't tell them that you forgot everything, don't give excuses other than you are a(n obviously) regular patron, you didn't realize so many things were overdue, you cannot afford to pay, and what other options do you have? Can you pay 1/4 of it today, in cash, if they wipe out the rest? Do they have a grace period anytime during the year where they will wipe your account balance out? Will they let you work off some of your fine (at $5 of $8 per hour)?

 

I hope you find a few sympathetic ears. :grouphug:

 

(FTR, at our library, if you have an outstanding fine, over $5, and we find out that you are using your child's card for which you signed, both cards will be blocked until you pay your fine. Our reasoning is that you've signed to be responsible for your children's card, and if you can't be responsible for yours, you lose those library privileges.)

 

Thanks for the advice. And my son's card is on his father's account. It would only be used for his own school books, not my own personal use.

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There is a library book at my parents house with a date stamped in it... from 1971. I am tempted to return it just to see the look on the librarian's face! :lol: But imagine the fees....

 

When I read WTM I imagined the fees I could rack up with several homeschooling kids checking out books every week... it's kind of terrifying.

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(FTR, at our library, if you have an outstanding fine, over $5, and we find out that you are using your child's card for which you signed, both cards will be blocked until you pay your fine. Our reasoning is that you've signed to be responsible for your children's card, and if you can't be responsible for yours, you lose those library privileges.)

 

This is interesting. I recently signed my 3 year old up for a card because I needed to get some books for school and didn't have time to deal with the hassle of unblocking the other three cards I have for myself and 2 older kids. (Our library blocks your card when you exceed $15. All three other cards had $20-$30 in fines on them.) I feel your library pain.

 

Now I sound negligent. I do pay my fines. It's just a huge pain to do it in person when I am in the children's area checking out with all four kids running circles around me not realizing my card is blocked until I've checked out half of our 82 books on my only unblocked card and then have to go all the way upstairs to the main checkout to pay the fines on the blocked one so I can continue checking out. I try to remember to do it on-line ahead of time, but....libraries. We have a love/hate relationship.

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Our library is doing a Food for Fines event this upcoming week. I would start off by calling the library and ask them if they plan to run any reduced fine events in the near future (or check the online calendar!)

 

My DH had $23 in fines, and we had to pay $10 before he could use the computer. I have $8 in fines and a replacement book for of $15. Fortunately, I ordered the book off Amazon for $4, so really I saved a over $10 there. On Sunday, we are dragging everyone down to the library to donate $21 in canned food so we can begin using the library again!

 

We are going to use a similar system that many other posters have mentioned here- due dates on Google Calendar & putting a box labelled "Library Books" next to the front door. I'm pretty excited to start using the library- first book I'm going to check out is WTM! (even though I checked that out last time!)

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There is a library book at my parents house with a date stamped in it... from 1971. I am tempted to return it just to see the look on the librarian's face! :lol: But imagine the fees....

 

 

Don't do this with the books at my house! We buy from the library book sales, and many of their books still have the old slips in them. I promise they aren't really late, if any of you are scanning my shelves. :D I do love the stories about books returned to the library after decades.

 

We run into occasional small fees. It usually happens when my husband forgets that I put the huge canvas bag on the passenger seat in his car so that he will drop everything off before or after work. We mainly use the library in the next county where he works. If he forgets to drop things off and has a few days off we run into trouble. I always forget to check the computer on those days because we are so busy doing things as a family.

 

I also have Sunday as my "library day" on the computer. I request everything I think we will need for the following week, because a lot of the books need to be transferred to the branch my husband visits. I also check on what needs to be renewed or returned. We have a short bookcase with two shelves in the kitchen near the computer so I can make sure nothing is missing. It's working for now, but we do owe an occasional $1 or so when I slip up.

 

We almost owed quite a bit of money when my husband returned two books to the wrong library system. It was months before they ended up where they belonged. He reads the tags on the books before he drops them off now. :001_smile:

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I just paid a $23 library fine earlier this week, although that is the highest it has ever been for me. I was a little embarrassed, but the librarian (whom I'm on a first name basis with) told me that some people have HUNDREDS of dollars in fines and don't even care, so don't feel guilty. I agree with what many others have posted and would just pay what I could/talk to someone about payment arrangements and move on.

 

At our library, you can still check out books if you have a fee lower than $5, but if I ever get over that, I do use one of my two children's cards occasionally. Sometimes, I don't realize that I have a fee until I'm standing there checking out and I rarely have cash on hand.

 

We also keep a book basket near the door for the books that we haven't read, and another for the ones that we have. Our branch of the library is within walking distance,so we usually just grab the basket with returns in it whenever we head out the door. My library also issues receipts.

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Your post reminded me to return some things I had due at an out of town library! I called and thankfully only owed $1.20, but yikes, it would have added up fast. I once had a $44 fine and that was painful. I now have a designated library basket and the due dates written on the calendars and the print off of titles on the bulletin board. I run into trouble when I use various other libraries so I need to tweak my system a little for those. (My local library has a 4 week check out, but the next town over only has a 2 week.)

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Either way you've got to talk to the library. They can send you to collections if you don't pay your fines.

 

Around here they can also put a warrant out for your arrest if you have unpaid library fines (and be booked into the county jail). I doubt you're the first or will be the last. Just be honest and talk to them about it.

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