Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Actual Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #131

SETTING: My "liberry," last month, as a man carrying a plastic grocery store bag full of videos and DVDs enters and approaches the circ desk.

MAN— Is this the day that you don't charge fines?

ME— No, actually, that's Friday.

MAN— Oh. (Looks distraught) Well, these are overdue. They were due on the 11th. (Looks worried and holds bag handles guardedly) Could I take them back?

ME— Sure. You're welcome to keep them and bring them back on Friday, if you like.


MAN— But I was hoping to get some more.

(I stand there in silence because if I were to try and speak I would likely come up with "Dude, it's pretty %&#*ing simple. Either you turn in your videos and take your fines or you bring them back on Friday and you don't get fined. It's your choice. The safety's off. How you wanna play this?")

MAN— Well... maybe I can send someone back with them on Friday.

ME— (Seeing now that the man's problem might be one of transportation on Friday) Or, the other option is to put them in our after hours drop box outside. It's fine free all during the week, but we only unlock it when we're closed.

MAN— Well... could I put them in it now?


ME— No. It's locked right now. We only unlock it when we're closed.

MAN— But I wanted some more movies today.

ME— (Shrugs) You're welcome to turn them in, then, but we will have to charge you a fine.

MAN— How much?

(I ask the man how many he has and reconfirm that all ten videos were due on the 11th. I then fetch the calculator.)

ME— Looks like the fine would be $4.50. Actually, it would only be $4, because we have a $4 fine ceiling.

MAN— Oh.

(He again looks distraught as he weighs his options. Does he take the fine now and get some new videos or does he have someone else bring them back on Friday to avoid the fine and go home empty-handed? From his expression, you can pretty much see the argument as it plays out in his head. Eventually, he decides against taking the fine and leaves with his bag of videos.)


Kate said...

Even with your $4 fine ceiling, it's still probably cheaper than renting ONE movie at Blockbuster.....

Sarah said...

I have to say that I feel some sympathy for the patron. Your system doesn't make a lot of intuitive sense--it sounds nice and people probably like having a day without fines. But it is freakin confusing to understand why you get charged differently depending on where you turn something in, or that turning in something even later will result in less fines! I have a hard enough time explaining the concept that videos need to be returned with the disc inside the case!

Also, that they wont pay 4$ in fines is shocking--I had someone bring a box of dvds in a month late, their total fines were in the neighborhood of 500$. Our dvds are 1.25$ overdue, up to the price of the item, and patrons can check out 10 items for 5 days, so lots and lots of BIG fines.

Juice S. Aaron said...


I can't really argue with you, there. All I can really say is that we're far more interested in getting our materials back than we are in getting fine money. Some people will hold on to items for all eternity, waiting on that one day they can bring them in with no fines. We give em one every week, so we get our stuff back more often than not. This is not to say there aren't still folks out there who hold on to them anyway, but I'd be willing to bet our return ratio is higher than most.

Sarah said...

We send em to collections if they don't return our stuff--if they bring the materials back we call the goons off, even if they don't pay their fines. This also keeps them from coming checking out more materials--but not using the internet. Most of the innanet crowd have huge fines on their cards from the cds and videos they checked out and never returned the first time they got their card. The collections letters don't apparently bother most of them.

ProfessorDog said...

That makes sense, but it almost seems like, in that case, they might as well just not have fines at all, rather than having one day a week and certain hours of every day when there aren't fines. I wonder if the current system is the result of a tortured compromise between someone who wanted the fine-free system I just proposed and someone else who wanted the more usual one-fine-amnesty-day-per-year system. (Both of whom, of course, never actually have to try to explain the policy to patrons.)

An employee of a small town "liberry" chronicles his quest to remain sane while dealing with patrons who could star in a short-lived David Lynch television series.