Bartholomew County Public Library patrons with overdue books and unpaid fines will soon hear from a collection company threatening to hand over their information to credit agencies
BCPL Library Services Manager Jason Hatton says even though failing to return library materials constitutes theft, the library chooses not to pursue criminal cases against patrons. Instead, Hatton says, Unique Management, a Jeffersonville company, will act on behalf of the library by sending letters and calling patrons who owe 25 dollars or more and have a book 45 days or more past due.
“Especially in the time of budget cuts we felt the time was right to push and really say that our materials are important to us and we don’t want to keep spending money to replace materials over and over again,” Hatton said.
If a patron fails to return materials or pay fines after receiving a letter from Unique Management, the company will begin calling the person in the evenings and on the weekends. If the materials are not returned and fines are still unpaid after a few weeks, the company then initiates contact with credit companies.
“Ultimately there is teeth behind this. They will be reported to the three credit reporting agencies,” he said. “When they go to apply for credit they will see that against their record and it will count against their credit score.”
Unique Management bills the library 10 dollars for every patron they contact. The library is then responsible for paying the company back. Hatton says the library will pass on the 10 dollar cost to delinquent patrons, even though many already owe the library substantially more than that. He says the library isn’t concerned about losing money, as Unique promises not to charge BCPL more money than it collects on its behalf.
The BCPL board hopes this practice will encourage library borrowers to return items and pay their fines in a timely manner. But Hatton says the company’s collection method has a good record of re-collecting materials.
“It really increases the rate of return…50 to 75 percent,” he said.
So far, the library only has a 90 day agreement with Unique, and Hatton says he’s unsure if the relationship will continue afterward.