Las Vegas Sun

August 20, 2019

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Why library district purged $1.7 million in overdue book fees

Clark County Library

Corlene Byrd

The Clark County Library at 1401 E. Flamingo Road is shown in 2014.

The storyline in one “Seinfeld” episode focused on Jerry being contacted by the city library about a book they claimed was more than 20 years overdue. He winds up paying a fine after being hounded by Mr. Bookman, the library detective.

If Jerry lived in modern-day Clark County, he probably would have avoided the hassle.

The Las Vegas-Clark County Library District declared $1,763,647 in fines and fees from 32,047 borrowers “uncollectible” Thursday, purging five years of overdue penalties from the district’s system.

Library officials reiterated that this was not a forgiveness campaign, and that over the past five years, they had made repeated attempts to track down the delinquent fees.

“Since 2014, we’ve made several efforts to collect this debt by sending several notifications, including monthly emails and notices,” said Jennifer Schember, director of library operations.

Schember said the library district’s contracted collection agency reported that there was little hope in collecting the debt because there is a one-year statute of limitations that prevents them from conducting further action on outstanding accounts. Schember also noted that Clark County residents’ transient nature also contributes to the difficulty of recovering fines.

Other libraries, like the ones in Boulder City and Henderson, have also implemented this practice, she said.

Those with a fine of more than $10 have their borrowing privileges suspended. But those who had a fine purged this week can again borrow items, because those fines are no longer in the system.

Since contracting with the agency, Unique Management Services Inc., in 2000, the district has collected more than $11 million worth of items and more than $7 million in fines and fees. The board first authorized staff to purge fines and fees that were more than five years old in 2004 in an effort to clean up the district’s system. That purge took $1.4 million in fines and fees from the system.

Overdue items are charged at $.25 per day and max out at $4 per item, not exceeding $10 for multiple items. But lost, stolen or damaged items are charged at the full cost to replace. If fees get sent to collections, the borrower may face an additional $10 collection fee.

Trustee Robin Wadley-Munier said she hoped all the lost books and items, wherever they are, are being put to good use.

“That’s the one thing I have as a shining light in the back of my mind is that maybe some child is using them,” she said. “I hope they aren’t in the dumpster. That’s my only fear.”