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Library considers filing charges

An extra $46,000 could go a long way toward updating the collection of available materials at the Brewton Public Library. Those updates could take place if patrons would cough up late fees owed for overdue materials.
Glenda Lammers, librarian for the Brewton Public Library, recently approached the Brewton City Council with a request to make non-payment of late fees a punishable offense.
“Some other libraries, like Fairhope and Mobile have already adopted this kind of policy,” Lammers said. “It’s not something we wanted to do, but this is as much about getting library materials back to the library as much as it is about the fines.”
Lammers said the number of items late is staggering and the return of those items would enhance the collections for other patrons.
“Looking at our data, we have 2,857 items that are overdue,” Lammers said Tuesday. “Some of those items date back as far as 2001. And with fines, we have 6,035 patrons that owe late fees and still have materials out.”
Lammers said it takes money to replace items that aren’t returned or items that are destroyed — money the system doesn’t have in its budget.
“If we had the $46,000 that is owed in fines and fees, we could make some changes in our children’s collection and other collections,” Lammers said. “That $46,000 is our materials budget for four years.”
Lammers said updating materials is necessary to keep up with changes in information and in technology.
“There are some items that old is fine to have,” Lammers aid. “Literature doesn’t change so having older volumes is acceptable. But when you look at computers and certain other information, old isn’t good.”
Lammers said those who still have Brewton Public Library materials in their possession may have an opportunity to avoid facing criminal charges.
“We plan on having an amnesty period sometime in June,” Lammers said. “During that time people can return materials without having to pay fines or fees associated with being late or overdue. We really want to get our materials back to the library for our patrons.”
Council members unanimously passed an ordinance that makes failure to return borrowed materials to the library a criminal offense — a misdemeanor punishable by fines and/or imprisonment.
The ordinance states, in part, “it shall be unlawful for any person to remove any book, periodical, magazine, or other property from the Brewton Public Library without authorization of the librarian or librarian assistants. It shall be unlawful for any person to fail or refuse to return any book, periodical, magazine, or other property of the Brewton Public Library within thirty (30) days after notice in writing of such failure or refusal.”
The ordinance also states that a patron may be notified by mail concerning any action planned due to the non-return of library materials and given ample time to respond.
Also, “any person found to be in violation of any provision of this Section shall, upon conviction, be fined not less than twenty dollars ($20.00) nor more than five hundred dollars ($500.00), or by imprisonment at hard labor for not more than six (6) months, or by both such fine and imprisonment at the discretion of the court.
To learn more about the ordinance or to determine if you have been assessed fines for overdue or missing library materials, contact the Brewton Public Library at 867-4626.