How to avoid getting on your library's blacklist

Discussing work at the library
Top hacks to help forgetful borrowers avoid overdue fines. Photo credit: Getty.

Borrowing books at the local library is free and is an ideal way to save money - but if items aren't returned on time, the fines can quickly add up - and stop more books from being borrowed.

Maintaining a wide selection of books for the community requires items to be returned by a certain date. While charges and lending periods differ, after 28 days the daily fine for an adult book borrowed from Auckland Libraries is $1: that's 14 per week for two books.  

For people who habitually misplace library books, Catherine Leonard, head of content and access at Auckland Libraries, said that by keeping tabs on the due date and making use of flexible locations for returns, borrowers can easily avoid paying unncessary fines.   

"Courtesy reminders are sent three days before an item is due - if customers need longer, renewing can be done [online] via the 'My Account' feature, the Auckland Libraries app or [by] calling or visiting any of our 55 libraries," Leonard said.

Additionally, making use of freebies means that those inclined to forget won't run the risk of a charge.

"eBooks, eAudiobooks, eMagazines, eNewspapers and streaming films cost nothing - the item will simply disappear so nothing ever becomes overdue," Leonard added

Auckland Library books are lent for 28 days (eBooks for 14, 21 or 28 days), and if not requested by someone else, can be renewed twice.  The trick is to get in before the due date.

"When an item falls overdue, reminders are sent at three, ten and 24 days after the due date, [by] email, phone or printed notice via mail," Leonard said.

While the majority of the library's half-a-million customers return books on time, if contact remains elusive and the amount owed is over $50, a debt collector is brought in.  

Bernard Ali, general manager, operations at Baycorp said that once an overdue fine is passed to them for collection, a letter is sent requesting payment within 10 days.

"For [debts] eligible for credit listing, the letter also states that any unpaid and undisputed accounts will be referred to our partner credit bureau(s) after 28 days," Ali said.

If people are facing financial difficulty, a repayment time frame or affordable repayment plan can be negotiated - but people must get in touch. If no agreement is reached and the debt remains unpaid, it's likely to end up on their credit record.

"A credit default can remain listed on an individual's credit file for up to five years," Ali confirmed. 

Returning or renewing items before the due date and making use of free services such as online film streaming, Wi-Fi, summer reading programmes, robotics and computer programming, and children's storytime/wiggle and rhyme will ensure that the local library remains the valuable resource that it's intended to be.

Borrowers prone to forgetting are advised to check out the lending guidelines and free resources on offer at their local library - and provide them with a couple of points of contact to ensure they receive the reminders.   

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