It was the best of times…
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” — Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
My parents and grandparents told me often that we had to take the bad with the good. Rain made the crops grow but too much rain made the river rise with the worry and reality of flooding. When the weather was too dry, we searched the sky for that cloud which would deliver the moisture needed to help the plants to prosper and increase the yield. These are lessons I have carried with me to the library over the years.
Librarians want their communities to prosper. We know that the library can be a change agent to make this happen. Increased literacy happens as people have access to quality, authoritative information, computers, internet, books, magazines and other materials.
Children read and they improve their chances for succeeding in school. The good news is that libraries provide these materials for free with a library card. To get a library card, you have to show ID and proof of address and agree to pay for any lost, damaged, or non-returned books. Since the borrower agrees to care for those borrowed items in which they have been entrusted, we believe they will honor this agreement.
Poplar Bluff Municipal Library has been successful in fulfilling its mission to the community. Our borrower numbers have increased. We are thriving along with the people using our library. We trust our patrons to return what they have borrowed. However, some of our borrowers are not fulfilling their promise.
As a result of this non-return, we are not able to meet the needs of others who want access to the same materials without having to repurchase them for the collections.
Patrons who return library items keep their privileges and have the opportunity to check out more for their enjoyment.
The library has a very generous lending policy allowing people to check out for three weeks with items automatically renewing for an additional three weeks. No item is billed until it becomes 45 days overdue. We are so friendly, in fact, that a patron can keep an item for 86 days without penalty. That is nearly three months! Patrons get a lot for their tax dollar.
Anyone can return overdue items in our 24/7 book drop with no questions asked. Those who don’t return items lose their borrowing privileges, incur bills, get turned over to a collection agency, and if the replacement costs of items exceed a certain amount, they can ultimately be prosecuted for theft under state law.
It is the library’s responsibility to protect the taxpayers’ investment.
This can force library administration to make some tough decisions.
Up until recently, we tried to work with our patrons with carrots (generous loans and check out policy) and sticks (billing and collections).
Now, we are left with those who, for whatever reason, refuse to return library materials. In the last six months, the library has been left with over $30,000.00 in unreturned materials.
As a result, we have called upon the Poplar Bluff Police Department and county and city prosecuting attorneys to help us recover these items.
As I stated earlier, it was the best of times. Library users may successfully check out items if the library can recover its lost materials. It is the worst of times because we are resorting to drastic measures to recover these.
There is light for those who have a difficult time getting to the library and returning their materials. Users can access ebooks, videos, music, etc. without having to take a physical item out of the library. With their smartphones, mobile devices and computers they still have thousands of items to read, listen and watch. And ... they don’t have to bring them back to the library, materials are automatically returned.
Please help the library. Return your items and help all of our citizens have access to library materials.
Sue Crites Szostak has been the director of the Poplar Bluff Municipal Library since 2013. She got her first library card at the Poplar Bluff library and did her internship there as well. She has worked in libraries for 43 years. Contact her at: email@example.com