The Slatest

Alabama Library Threatens Jail Time for Overdue Books

A library patron looks at a book at the main branch of the San Francisco Public Library on January 11, 2011 in San Francisco, California.  

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A library in Athens, Alabama has had enough. People who simply don’t understand the importance of returning things on time have about $200,000 worth of overdue material to the Athens-Limestone Public Library, and the institution isn’t going to take it anymore. The library is now going to be enforcing a city ordinance that says it is against the law to “fail or refuse to return” borrowed materials. Violating that ordinance can be punishable with a fine of up to $100 and/or a 30-day stint behind bars, reports the News Courier.

Sure, it may seem harsh, but the library says it is well worth it. “The taxpayers expect us to protect their investment,” Library director Paula* Laurita said. “We make every effort to be good stewards of public funds.” The library also wants people in the community to understand this is a serious matter and not act as though the things they borrow from the library have no value.

“Sometimes we hear, ‘I lent my library card to my cousin,’” Laurita said. “I just want to ask, ‘Would you lend your cousin your credit card? If they go and get $700 worth of clothing and you’re responsible for the bill, would you do that?’”

The library isn’t heartless and insists that a) it won’t go after children and b) it will do everything in its power to recover the material without going to the authorities. First, overdue notices are sent and then a certified letter. Only if that is also ignored will a court summons be issued.

*Correction at 1 p.m.: This post originally misspelled Paula Laurita’s name.