I just resolved a very frustrating situation at the central library. Last year, I borrowed some books to use as reference for Enkelin. I returned the books late, dropping them in the after-hours box a week after they were due. Later that month, they billed me $5 in late fees. No problem, $5 is a pretty good deal considering how helpful the books were. But I didn't pay the fine immediately. Figured I'd pay next time I visited the library.
Over the next few months (I admit, I don't visit the library as much as a children's book illustrator should), I received several letters from the library. I didn't open them, I figured they were reminders about my $5 debt. I wondered why they were sweating me for $5 when it probably cost them more money to send me all those notices. Finally, I opened one of the letters. Turned out, I'd forgotten to return one of the books, and they charged me for a lost book (to be credited upon return of the book). I found the book in my messy studio and returned it immediately, again to the after-hours box.
This afternoon, I had a few minutes of time to spare — and since I was downtown anyway — I decide to pay my library fine. I handed the librarian my library card, and he handed me a bill for almost $60! Yikes! I blinked, bit my lower lip, but I didn't question it. Figured, I'm delinquent, time to pay up. As I handed the librarian my credit card, I changed my mind and decided to ask how my $5 fine had grew so large. He said that I had lost a book, that I didn't pay for it, and that the resulting fines had been referred to collections.
Again, being delinquent, I hesitated to ask questions. But the thought of how many books I could purchase with that $60-bucks prompted me to dig further.
I explained that everything I'd borrowed I'd returned no later than one week past due, with the exception of that one book. He did some checking around, called in the help of another librarian to investigate and, after a long, long, long, long wait, they discovered their mistake. In their process of returning the book to the eastside branch where I'd originally borrowed it from (they said it didn't matter which branch I returned it to), they lost it. Then they charged me, and referred it to a collections agency. That's probably who's been calling me repeatedly, and whose ring I've been ignoring.
Between the two branches, they straightened all this out, but what worries me most is that this happened to me before. Last time, I paid much more, and I never asked any questions.
Today, I paid a $19 fine.
Lesson learned: Return your library materials on time. Pay your fines immediately. And, no matter what they tell ya, return your books to the branch you borrowed them from or be prepared to pay if they lose it. They just might.
In other news: I paid my lapsed SCBWI dues, too. I'm feeling too legit!