City library claims I have their book
May 15, 2018 7:20 PM   Subscribe

I have never even heard of this author. When I said I had misplaced the card for a while, "well you're still responsible" in a snotty sort of way. I am 100% sure I never checked this book out. If I had and I lost it, I'd own up to it and pay for it, but I don't the point in paying for a book I never checked out. Other pressing things (moving, losing job) took precedence. Now it's gone to collections and collections has added $30 (total of $55). I read the similar post about the U library.
posted by intrepid_simpleton to Human Relations (7 answers total)
 
One thing I would do is go to the library yourself and see if you can locate the book on the shelf. The library once accused me of not returning a book I'd put in the book drop. When I was able to find it on their shelves, they realized they hadn't checked it back in properly.
posted by elphaba at 7:37 PM on May 15 [17 favorites]


I forgot to mention we have 12 to 15 branches.
posted by intrepid_simpleton at 7:46 PM on May 15


The one bill I've ever had go to collections (I live in the U.S.) was similarly illegitimate and was approximately the same amount. For a decade or so, every few years I would get a form letter from a different collection agency demanding the money; I would write a letter in response stating why it wasn't legit and that they had their information wrong and insisting that they drop the matter, and then I'd never hear from that particular collection agency again. (Not threatening or anything and no attempt at pseudo-legalese or referencing any laws: just a basic by-postal-mail "business letter" in somewhat formal language as described back in my high school English Composition textbook. I hung on to a text file of the first response letter I wrote just in case and it paid off—all I had to do each time was make minor modifications and re-send it to the new guys who had bought the "debt".)

In that case, the people I had talked to at the original service company agreed with me that they'd made a mistake but said "oops we already sent it to collections, there's nothing we can do now!" and I said so in the letters. My suspicion however has been that for an amount of money this small, they may just not have wanted to even bother writing back and hence gave up immediately at my tiny bit of resistance.
posted by XMLicious at 8:03 PM on May 15 [2 favorites]


I think it's somewhat immoral for libraries to send missing books to collections. That said I understand why they do that. THAT said, you should fight this. Make sure this is not just some "in house" collection agency (sounds like you did this). You have 30 days to make them verify the debt. Go through these motions. Dispute the claim.

Be a little more SRS BZNS about the fact that it's not yours. Not "Oh I might have misplaced the card" (unless you really truly think an ex or roommate may have checked out a library book, and if this is the case, pay this) and more like "I did not check that book out, this is not my debt" Make them prove it. And yes I agree, finding the book on the shelf is an easy way to deal with this and also worth a shot.
posted by jessamyn at 8:06 PM on May 15 [20 favorites]


I forgot to mention we have 12 to 15 branches.

If they have a record of you checking it out and not returning it, they must know which branch it was checked out of no?
posted by like_neon at 2:31 AM on May 16 [3 favorites]


I'm a librarian and I'm in charge of doing the lost/missing/overdue procedures for my library. I'm with jessamyn in that sending an overdue fine to collections is beyond the pale, but for a city library, I suspect that decision was made on a higher political level. Still, in most libraries it is the lot of the front line assistant to enforce policy, so your best best is asking for a higher ranking staff member - Head of Circulation, Head of Access Services, something like that.

Hopefully, before passing the debt on to collections, they did a shelf search to verify it didn't end up there without being checked in. Ask them for verification that a shelf check was made. Ask them to detail the procedure for verifying lost materials. Ask about their "claims returned" policy. Ask about their "claims did not borrow" policy. Ask about what verification they do on a card presented to the desk - would they check out an item to a person clearly in their 20s to a person who appears to be in their 50s? Ask for the date/time/location of the initial circulation. Do they send out overdue notices before the item goes to collections? Did you receive one? What address did they have on file to send it to? Double check all that information. If you ever wanted to do Columbo cosplay, this is your chance - be thorough, curious, take notices, and "Just one more thing" to your hearts content.

Unfortunately, you are at a bit of a disadvantage here. As someone that does not use the library regularly, you are easy to fob off into the barren waste land of "policy". Once you get past the front lines and to someone who can make exceptions in your favor, you can present your case and hopefully get things fixed on the library's end.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:04 AM on May 16 [10 favorites]


Ditto, this is probably more their error than your oversight. My daughter was just accused of not returning a CD she'd checked out. She'd returned it via their automated return system along with the others she'd checked out. If it doesn't take on the first try it goes in to a separate bin wherein must be manually input which can take days or weeks. Our local library maxes out fines @ $12 no matter how long something has been missing. I'd keep fighting this.
posted by SoftSummerBreeze at 10:32 AM on May 16 [2 favorites]


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