Oh No! Overdue!

2 Mar

Today we cracked the whip.

We have 29 kids with books overdue – many of them since September or October. I can almost hear the books screaming from the insides of lockers where they have been shoved down to the bottom underneath a lone dirty gym sock and discarded worksheets. They want nothing more than to be back in the library, where they belong, safe and sound, snuggled in with their dewey decimal brothers and sisters.

On March 1st we increased the library fines from 10 cents a day to 25 cents a day. We have actually gotten some flack for doing this but let me tell you why we made this move.

  1. 29 students have books that have been overdue for more than a month.
  2. When students come in to find out how much their fines are for, they laugh when they hear it is only 10 cents a day.
  3. 10 cents means nothing to them.
  4. Since 10cents means nothing to them, it is not a deterrent from keeping library books past their due dates.
  5. There are other students who are actually interested in the books that are smushed down at the bottom of the offender’s locker.
  6. I can hear the library books screaming and it hurts my heart.

Just before the library fines increased to 25 cents, a young gentleman came into the library to inquire about being called down to the library over the P.A. system. Before today, we had taken to putting a few overdue offenders’ names into the announcements every day. He was incredulous that he had a book out and this was the first that he had heard about it. Why had we not told him that he had an overdue book? Well, we had.

Every Wednesday Paula (the amazing library technician and my partner in crime) posts an updated list of all of the students who have library fines and overdue books. This supposedly secret list is posted on the window to the atrium and on a bulletin board in the library. His name was on the list. Many times. So he went off in a huff to find his screaming library book.

Yesterday he came in with said book…and continued to express his outrage to Paula.

Why was this the first that he had heard about this overdue book? (Answer: It wasn’t. Most kids don’t need to have their names announced over the P.A.)

Why hadn’t we told him personally? (Answer: Who are you again? There are over 1300 students at this school!) Due Date

How should he have known when it was due? (Answer: We say it every time someone checks out a book. And, in case you happen to forget, we’ve solved that problem too by stamping it into the front of your book. We’re super helpful that way.)

Who’s responsibility is it if he has forgotten that he has a book checked out? (Answer: Really?!?)

He was quite frustrated to find out that this is how a library works: You borrow a book, it has a due date, you use the book and then you bring it back before it is due. Hmmm. When explained like that, much of the onus is on you, not on us, to take care of the book and bring it back. And, no, we won’t come and find you and ask you nicely to bring the book back when it is due. We hope you can figure that bit out yourself, otherwise good luck when you go to university and they charge you $1 a day for late returns. I’m pretty sure they won’t even help you out by announcing your name over a P.A. system. He was not our happiest customer that day.

So for the other 29 students who still have overdue library books, we have a new window display.

 Window Display

This is what it looks like from the inside. Unfortunately I couldn’t take a picture from the outside showing the kids names. Privacy issues and all. It is not our prettiest display but it gets the message across. Each sheet of white paper has one overdue offender’s name typed as large as it would go with a title that alerts them to their book’s overdue status. After today they will be coughing up 25 cents per day to keep that book confined to the depths of their locker.

Bring the book back and pay the fine.  

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2 Responses to “Oh No! Overdue!”

  1. averageinsuburbia March 3, 2011 at 5:16 pm #

    I laughed when I read this post and then in the same second I cried. I truly feel your pain and frustration. We have taken an entirely new strategy this year. No fines or detentions. They receive a printed overdue notice once a week. After two weeks overdue a generic overdue email goes out to parents. At a month overdue the parents receive a personal email. Of course, this puts the onus of responsibility on the parents and not on the student but believe me, the books come back the next day.
    Of course, this is Middle School I’m talking about. At the high school level, they should be past having mommy and daddy look after their things.
    Good luck!

    • freshlymintedlibrarian March 5, 2011 at 5:55 pm #

      When I taught at the elementary level that is similar to what we did. We do think that now, in high school, it is the responsibility of the students to return their books.

      But good news – the window display attack seemed to work! Within 3 hours we had 6 people bring back the books that we had been hounding them about for months now. I guess public notification of overdue books works. Ahh, the power of some gentle embarrassment.

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