In the never-ending saga of Libraries Who Make Unbelievably Bad Decisions, the Allen County Public Library has just entered itself as a front-runner. Steven Cohen of Library Stuff points to an article in the Journal Gazette in Fort Wayne, Indiana that discusses library fines.
The problem? There are children with fines in excess of $700.
The 10-year-old is being held responsible by the Allen County Public Library for $778 in fines and replacement costs of items checked out in his name. The 5-year-old is also facing fines and replacement fees, although Mason isn’t sure how large those fees are. Mason says library officials won’t tell him. He’ll have to take the child to the library and have him ask how much he owes.
But how do a 5-year-old and a 10-year-old pay such hefty fines? Mason says he’s been told that when they are 18 they’ll be sued for it. Meanwhile, because they owe large fines, they can’t use the library.
Mason doesn’t think that’s right. How can you hold a preschooler and an elementary student responsible for huge fines? At some point, he says, the parent or adult guardian at the time of the abuse has to assume responsibility.
“If I sign for my kid to get a library card, I’m responsible as an adult,” Mason says.
It’s a sticky situation, and it shows how complicated the law can get, says Jeff Krull, library director. Parents don’t have to sign for library cards for their children. This policy allows students coming in with school groups to get cards.
There are a zillion issues with this. Doesn’t this library have a limit on its fines? Personally, I have an issue with fining children – we want them to use the library, to develop a love of books and reading…and then we fine ’em if they don’t return the book they’ve just fallen in love with in a timely fashion. Of course we want the materials returned. But is it really necessary to charge an overdue fee?
Anyway, this library has fines. Whatever. The part that I find fascinating is that “parents don’t have to sign for library cards for their children.” SO…a three-year old can come in and get a library card? Without Mom and Dad giving their OK? I’ve got bad news for the library – if you’re considering the library card application a legal document that would assign responsibility for materials and fines to the signer….then the signer had better be a legal adult. The library is going to SUE these kids for back fines when they turn 18??? Good luck.
In the meantime, they’ve guaranteed that these kids will never step foot in a library again.