Warning to book lovers

CUMBERLAND COUNTY Beginning March 1, the library is going to let a national collection agency handle late fines and it could show up on your credit report as an unpaid debt.

A lot of people like 10-year-old Curtis Morris have turned in library books a few days, weeks, or months late.

"I kept forgetting to bring them back," Morris said.

"I know it was an oversight on his part and his mom's part," Curtis' father Alvin Morris said.

Library officials say overdue books are a big problem. More than 37,000 books and other library materials are overdue --some for more than three years.

One of the reasons Deputy Library Director Brian Manning says is a lot of customers are in the military and move around a lot.

"It's basically what happened, because we have a liberal lending policy and people forget they have the responsibility of bringing those books back to us," Manning said.

Manning says the library doesn't have the resources to track down all those overdue books, so they've hired a collection agency to do it for them.

Currently the library allows patrons to check out a book and keep it out for up to 18 weeks. After that it's late and 42 days later it gets reported to the collection agency.

"Once it reaches that point, Unique Management uses a series of letters phone calls to try and get the customer to bring the book back," Manning said. "At that point the company reports it to the credit reporting agency as an outstanding debt."

That debt includes a fine up to $25 and a $10 service fee.

Manning says they aren't doing it for the money, but to get their books back.

He says the faltering economy has caused surge in the number of people checking out books and DVDs and using free computer services.

Library patron Eloria Howell says she won't be fudging on overdue dates anymore.

"So trust me, everything that goes out will be marked on the calendar today with the due date," Howell said.

Library officials say the collection agency will use a series of letters and phone calls to try and get the books back and collect the fines.

To learn more, visit the Cumberland County Library's Web site.

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