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COUNTYWIDE : Library Waives Fines on Overdue Books

A book that was 10 years overdue was turned in to the Ventura County library system under a fine amnesty that began this week. The title: “How to Look 10 Years Younger.”

“The book definitely must teach people how to look 10 years younger because it’s in absolutely perfect condition,” librarian Robin Middleton said.

Hundreds of overdue books checked out of the library are making their way back onto shelves since the library declared a three-week amnesty on overdue books. When the amnesty period ends Jan. 31, the library will impose one of the highest late fees in the state. Library officials also will hire a collection agency to retrieve long-overdue books.

Alan Langville, community libraries manager, said fines are not being doubled to 20 cents a day to raise revenues. The fines account for only about $100,000 of the library system’s $9-million annual budget, he added.

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“Our overdue rate is far too high. About 12% of the books out are overdue,” Langville said. “The bottom line is we want our books back.”

In waiving the late fees, the system will lose about $6,000 but regain many titles written off as lost, he said.

The longest-overdue book turned in so far is a novel returned this week to the Prueter Library in Port Hueneme. It was checked out in February, 1981.

At 20 cents per day, the county’s new fines will be twice those of the Oxnard and Thousand Oaks municipal libraries. The Oxnard library charges 2 cents a day for children’s books.

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Collin Clark, statistics data coordinator for the state library in Sacramento, said he has never heard of any California public library charging more than 10 cents a day in fines, but said the increase is not unjustifiable given the increased cost of books since the Ventura County system last raised fines, in 1980.

The maximum fine imposed by the county system--now $3--will double also, but will still be lower than the Thousand Oaks Library’s $10 maximum fine and comparable to Oxnard’s $5 maximum fine on adult titles.

Library officials have been phoning borrowers who have long-overdue books and said they expect a far greater number of titles to be returned as more patrons become aware of the amnesty program.


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