Return Library Books or Else: Borrowers Arrested for Failing to Return Overdue Books, DVDs

Arresting negligent patrons is "not something we're setting out to do," USS Liberty Memorial Public Library Director John Hanson said.

Grafton Village Administrator Darrell Hofland similarly defended the village's ordinance, which calls for citations first before it progresses to the legal system.

"Similar to what many communities across the country are facing are dwindling resources resulting in reduced funds to successfully maintain our inventory of books by residents not respecting one of the library's most valuable assets," he said. "In essence by not returning a book it's a theft of public property."

Former Grafton resident Heidi Dalibor still has the two library books that landed her in jail. She was cuffed by police in front of her mother's home in August 2008 for failing to return "White Oleander" and "Angels and Demons."

Unlike Henson, Dalibor said she got all the notices sent first by the library and then by the town but "kind of blew it off."

"I didn't mean to on purpose," the 21-year-old server and bartender said. "It was just kind of out of sight, out of mind."

But she certainly didn't expect the two uniformed officers who showed up, one in the front of the house, one in the back.

"I didn't know they were arresting me at first," she said. "I just thought they were taking me to pay the fine."

Instead, she was booked and had her mugshot taken. She bonded out in less than an hour and $180 in fines and court costs were paid that same day.

The case made headlines, and "Angels and Demons" author Dan Brown even caught wind of it, sending Hanson an autographed copy to replace Dalibor's.

"He said, 'Rumor said you could use another copy of this,'" Hanson said, referring to Brown's note.

Blase Attitude Toward Library Books Costs Thousands Each Year

Grafton Police Chief Charles Wenton said Dalibor was arrested on a contempt of court charge for ignoring the court date in her citation for failure to return library materials.

"It's a service we provide," Wenton said. "An individual is retaining possession of a property that does not lawfully belong to them."

The blase attitude some have toward returning library books in a timely fashion -- or at all -- can cost libraries thousands of dollars a year in lost inventory.

Unique Management Services doesn't issue arrest warrants, but the Jefferson, Ind., company contracts with about 1,500 libraries across the country to go after patrons who ignore the library's pleas to return materials.

Its end-game is reporting the debt to the patron's credit bureau, which could negatively affect their credit score.

"What we encounter is that people do think that it's just a book. What's the big deal? I'll take it back," said Kenes Bowling, manager of customer development.

But the losses can be huge, even if the percentage of customers who never return their materials is very small compared with the number of total library customers who obey policies.

"[We] try to remind people that it's not a small issue to the library," he said. "It's really important."

After his arrest, Henson said he rooted through all of his moving boxes and finally found the library's DVD of "Flying Daggers" tucked in with some of his old baby stuff. He promptly returned it to the Littleton library.

Asked by the judge whether the movie was any good, or at least good enough to warrant all this trouble, Henson said he couldn't honestly remember.

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