Tough new measures help reduce library debt
10 July 2007
Tough new measures introduced at Christchurch City Libraries six months ago are helping to reduce the amount of debt owed by borrowers.
This debt relates to fines for overdue items and replacement costs for books and items that have not been returned.
In April 2006, the libraries debt topped $1.4 million. This was owed by past and present borrowers. The amount was reduced to $857,500 in January and at the end of last month had almost halved to $449,814. Of that amount, $139,473 is current debt which is less than 62 days old.
Christchurch City Libraries Manager Carolyn Robertson says she expects this amount to fall even further during the next six to 12 months as the full impact of the new measures, designed to better manage and reduce the debt, work through the system.
"Under the new system we are capturing the debt earlier. Of the current debt, $99,201 or 22 per cent is less than 30 days old. I am confident we should see some significant reductions during the next six to 12 months as the new measures bed in and we work to recover the $310,341 of debt which is three to 19 months old."
After an item is overdue for three days, the borrower receives an email or telemessage reminding them they have overdue items. Seven days later they are asked by letter or email to return the items or face being charged the 40c a day, per item overdue fine as well as the replacement cost of the item and a $10 processing fee.
When any items are 31 days overdue, a block is put on the customer’s library card and they are no longer able to borrow until the items are returned or paid for. If the overdue period extends to 48 days, customers are phoned and asked to return the overdue items and after 62 days an invoice is sent. At 70 days any outstanding amounts over $50 are transferred to a debt collection agency.
Mrs Robertson says by notifying customers earlier and more often about overdue items and fines, the new measures are helping customers to manage their debts by preventing them building up to unmanageable levels.
"The average debt owed by borrowers is between $20 and $50. With the average cost of replacing a book or audio-visual item being $35 and members able to borrow 20 times at a time, it is not difficult for some debts to mount quickly."
She says the new measures are important to help reduce the debt and ensure the city is able to provide all residents with access to the latest books, magazines and audio-visual items.
"Reducing the debt related to overdue and non-returned items has a significant impact on the library’s capacity to buy new items and replace stock."
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