When Books Go Missing and Borrowers Go Bad, NYC Libraries Go to Collections

By Sonja Sharp on September 18, 2013 9:28am 

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  Thousands of delinquent NYC library patrons end up in collections every year for overdue materials. 
New York Librarians Get Tough on Bad Borrowers
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PROSPECT HEIGHTS — Borrower beware.

A quarter a day may not seem like much, but for tens of thousands of delinquent patrons, city library fines can add up to a whole lot of financial trouble, DNAinfo New York has learned. 

This year alone, the city's three largest library systems sent some 60,000 overdue accounts to collections agencies, a process that prompts most embarrassed borrowers to quickly return, repay and repent. 

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"When [collections agents] contact customers, it really, really increases the chances of us getting the material back, which is the point of the exercise," said Queens Public Library spokeswoman Joanne King. "A lot of what we have is irreplaceable."

But some materials never resurface — with dire financial consequences for the borrower. 

"I wouldn't step into libraries for years — I moved near the best library ever, the Central Brooklyn Library, and I was afraid to walk in," said former teacher Arpita Dey, 33, who unknowingly racked up more than $200 in fines on a single item, and saw her credit score suffer as a result.

"I had these irrational fears, like I’d walk through the metal detector and it would double as a red flag and they’d know who I am. "

In fact, Dey herself didn't know she was in arrears with the New York Public Library until a potential landlord pulled her credit report. 

That's when she found out she owed $220 on a long-lost VHS tape she'd hoped to show to her high school science class, a tape she'd borrowed from the Mid-Manhattan Library and forgotten in her classroom when she left at the end of the term. A tape that would haunt her for the next seven years. 

"I forgot about it during the school year, and once I did remember it I had already stopped teaching for a number of years. I found out about much later on when I noticed it had gone to collections," Dey said.

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