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Overdue fines

I’m always surprised when people say they don’t carry cash. The card reader might not be working. Then you can’t get whatever you were trying to buy. Sometimes that means your meal or your tank of gas. You don’t have to carry a lot of cash – just a $20 is enough to take care of most situations.

This is something I see a lot at the library. People will build up their fines over time, and when it gets over our limit of $20, they have to pay. They haven’t been paying all along, and now it is a big deal.

But this is part of our culture. We react only when we have to, rather than to prevent a problem.

They will pull out their credit card, and we only take cash or check. Sometimes they will say “But it is a check card!” like that means anything. It doesn’t matter what account the payment comes out of. It matters what form the payment is in. We take paper, not plastic. We don’t have a way to take electronic payments.

Sometimes it is right before closing and we can’t take any money at all. We aren’t like retail – when we close the doors to the public, we leave too. We don’t stay afterwards to count the money from the fines. We take care of that right before closing. When closing happens, we aren’t on the clock anymore, so we don’t want to be there.

So then, they have a stack of books and they can’t check them out because their fines are too high. They knew they had fines all along. They’ve been paying off a bit here and there. They’ll pay off just enough to use their card, but not any extra. So then, just one thing, one day overdue, and their fine is over the limit again.

One guy got really mad and said that we needed to “get with the times” and take cards. I told him that he needed to stop turning his stuff in late. He didn’t like it at first, but then he realized I was right.

If you do it right, the library is a totally free experience. If you do it wrong, your account can go to collections. Your choice. It isn’t the library’s fault that your stuff is late. It certainly isn’t the fault of the person behind the desk.

Blaming other people for your own problems is the reason for your problems.

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