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July 25, 2011


Libraries haven’t collected late fees since May

by Deena Winter

While city hall is trying to figure out how to come up with nearly $10 million to bridge a budget gap, the city’s libraries have not been able to collect an estimated $29,000 in library fines since early May due to a computer snafu.

A Lincoln woman told me twice this summer she tried to pay her late fees, and twice was told the library couldn’t take her payment due to computer problems.

“Here I am willing to pay late charges for a service that I have used… and a city service who has been crying for years that it doesn’t have enough funding is not even using the systems set in place to legitimately generate revenue,” the woman said in an email. “I wonder how much work it is to fix the ‘computer problem’ and what revenue could be gained if the simple system of library overdue charges was being managed properly.”

So I asked the head of the library system, Pat Leach, what was going on, and she said all of Lincoln’s libraries moved to a “new automated system” on May 4. However, the city wasn’t able to install the software that notifies people by phone that they owe late fees, and library officials didn’t feel it was fair to assess charges before notifying people first, so fines were not assessed for items returned late during that time — and apparently will never be collected, Leach said.

“The process of that installation took a remarkable number of twists and turns, but should be installed this week,” Leach said recently in an email. “We hadn’t expected this to take so long. In the meantime, we felt it unfair to charge our customers when we weren’t able to notify them of overdues. As soon as the system is installed, you can be sure that we will be charging again.”

On Thursday, Leach said she expected to have the phone notification system “up and running within a few days.”

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jul 25 2011

    If we could just fix the problem and raise the amount of fines, I am sure we could cover that $10 million gap in no time. “You, with the late Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, that will be $2,000 please.” It just makes sense.

  2. jenny
    Jul 25 2011

    Government work at its finest. (I’m a city employee, so I can say that!)

  3. Dan Bretta
    Jul 25 2011

    Their calling system must be tied in with their computers then because I never got a call for a book that I checked out in June that I thought my wife had returned…We always get a call from the library when we have something late…this time we did not and I racked up a $5.25 late fee..which I will gladly pay, but I sometimes rely on that to remind me that I have something out. I guess this explains why I didn’t get a call.

    • Dan Bretta
      Jul 25 2011

      Heh…I guess I should have read the whole article before posting. 🙂

  4. deb
    Jul 26 2011

    I had the same experience….


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