Libraries should give patrons receipts when they return books. I received a disturbing letter in the mail yesterday that I have overdue books from my local public library. The fine is $70, and is being sent to collections. Excuse me? I don't have any library books, and haven't even been to the library since August. So I called. I was told that I have two books out and that they have been marked as lost. I told her that yes, I had borrowed those two books in July but that I vividly remember returning them in August. She put me on hold and went to check the shelf. Nothing. The books aren't on the shelf where they should be. So today I went to the library myself, letter in hand. Now, you have to understand, I hate confrontation. I will go out of my way to avoid any type of confrontation. But I forced myself to be brave, to be an adult, and deal with this. Also, I bribed myself with a promise of a mocha from Starbucks when I was done.
I spoke to two different employees at the library. The first was very nice and sympathetic but didn't have the power to do anything for me. She checked the shelves for the books, and when she couldn't find them she went and got someone else. The second employee, let's call her Lynn, was condescending and rude. Lynn stared me in the eyes and said "It's not our fault you don't read your email. We sent you an email notifying you of this in September". She then checked to make sure they had my correct email on file. Ummm... Guess what? They did not have my correct email on file. They had my old, old, old email on file. An email that I had asked an employee to change in July by the way. However, they had my correct phone number and address on file. Why hadn't they tried to contact me again after receiving no response to the email? Even in this digital age not everyone has email, how do they contact people with no email? Lynn had no answer for me. She just kept pointing out that they emailed me, once. I pointed out that this still was not changing the fact that they are trying to charge me $70 for books that I returned two months ago. "We don't have the books," Lynn said. "I returned them," I said. At this point we were pretty much engaged in a staring contest.
Even though eye contact, especially with a stranger, can be scary I'm very good at staring contests. Because of my nice contact lenses I barely have to blink, I'm used to dry eyes. So we stared. "Let me see what I can do," Lynn mumbled as she broke eye contact and went into an employees only room. I waited, and waited and waited. Finally she came out with the library director. The director, while outwardly nice, I could tell thought that I was a deadbeat. She thinks that I never returned the books, that I ignored the notices that I never received and that I'm wasting her time. She smiled, and said that she would personally check the shelves to make sure that the books were not misfiled, next week. Several times while assuring me that she would check thoroughly she pointed out how rare it would be for the books to have been returned, not scanned in, and then misplaced. I smiled and agreed, "Yes, it is strange. Perhaps you should rethink your return procedure." And then I left. I had been in the library for an hour and the issue is still unresolved. I am now drinking my mocha from Starbucks and praying that she will find those books next week, because if she doesn't find them I will have to pay $70 for two books that I know I returned two months ago.
The moral of this story? Get a receipt when you return library books, even if you have to write it out yourself and force a clerk to sign it.