Efforts being made to collect overdue fines

By Cathy Kimmel-Srock
Review Staff Writer
It’s time to return those overdue library books and settle up those fines.
According to the Orion Township Public Library, in an effort to ensure they are maximizing use of public tax dollars, the Library Board of Trustees analyzed their finances and discovered there is over $40,000 in outstanding fines and fees that are owed by patrons of the library.
This discovery prompted action by the board so as to meet the goals of the library, which resulted in the library entering into a contract with a collection agency, Unique Management Systems, to “further attempt recovery of the materials and/or money owed.” The collection agency specializes in serving libraries and has worked with many other libraries in Michigan and across the country.
“Our goal is to encourage patrons to return items in a timely fashion to the library,” said Director Karen Knox.
In order to assist patrons with returning their materials by their due date, the library sends an email notice three days before an item is due back. If the materials are not returned by that date, an overdue notice is sent three days after the item was due and a second overdue notice is sent two weeks after the missed due date.
If the item is still not returned, according to the library, the patron’s account is billed for the (assumed) lost item six weeks after it was due. Additionally, the library also sends a fine notice to any patron who owes $10 or more on their account.
According to the library’s Fines and Fees Policy, “A public library exists to serve the community and is based on the concept of sharing resources. When one person violates that principle by retaining materials beyond the established limits, that person takes unfair advantage of the community as a whole.”
“We spend community tax dollars on the materials, and it is our job to ensure the materials are available to be shared equally,” Knox explained. “We just want to be responsible with the library’s resources.”
Beginning on Sept. 1, if a patron account has over $25 in fines for over 30 days, the account will be turned over to the collection agency, with an additional processing fee of $10 added to the account, according to a press release issued by the library.
Those who are at risk of being sent to the collection agency will be notified by mail in advance.
Additionally, this month, the library is also offering an amnesty period. Patrons can go to the library and talk with the staff about their situation, and the staff will negotiate the outstanding fines with the patron in order to clear their account prior to the Sept. 1 deadline, according to Knox.
It’s their hope, according to the press release, that they will see “an influx in the return of materials and clearing of patron accounts in August” and have to have minimal use of the collection agency, due to increased accountability by library patrons.
“This way, everyone in the community will benefit,” it reads.
In an effort to reduce overdue notices, the library also reminds and encourages patrons to renew their items as long as no holds have been placed on them by other patrons.
The Orion Township Public Library can be reached at (248) 693-3000 or visited online at www.orionlibrary.org.