Overdue library books; my life would be simpler if people just returned them on time, but they don’t! I’m in charge of sending out the overdue letters for all seven branches, plus I invoice for lost books and do the chasing up. Also, we only reintroduced fines a couple of years ago, and I’m thinking about an amnesty.
A bit of history. For a while our first overdue letter was a fun affair; it had a picture of a sofa and asked people if maybe their book had slipped down the back of the sofa. People responded well to a light-hearted approach and we got very few grumbles. Currently we use a stock standard ‘did you know you have overdue books’ letter.
In the past we’ve done standard lost book and fine amnesties such as “$3 for every can of food” and we also raised money for the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal and written off fines in exchange.
At present we send two letters, then invoice if the total including $5 admin per book will be over $50. We only send to the debt collector over about $150. People can’t borrow once their fines hit $3 – we keep it low because we feel in poorer communities it’s easier to come up with $3 than $10.
I’m wanting to tidy up both the lost books, and the amount owing in fines, so I’m thinking of a multi-strand approach, which I’ll have to write up and get approved by management:
- Send a letter to anyone with lost books who owes less than $20 and say “hey, we realise you might not even know there are still outstanding but we’d love to have them back etc” and have a grace period where we right off associated fines in exchange for books coming back.
- Once that grace period is over, advertise an amnesty, something like “1 can of food = $3 off your fines” for people returning lost books and for those who just have outstanding fines.
- For the kids, some sort of “read a book and tell us about it and we’ll write off $3 in fines” so we can get them reading and borrowing again.
- For those with invoiced lost books offer them a “return your books and we’ll go you halves on your fines” so we get the books AND some money back.
I thought I’d try and make the letter in (1) fun, maybe using a cute overdue book graphic off the internet, rather than a growly letter that puts people off.
Any thoughts on the plan would be much appreciated. I’d love to know if anyone has tried a ‘read off your fines’ scheme with kids, and how it went.