Loose Ends: Lessons from library

It is a good thing that the small-town library of my youth didn’t turn over their regular overdue book offenders list to the local constabulary. I used the library daily, often losing track of the materials checked out in my name. All of my siblings were notorious for overdue library books and every so often one of us would end up scraping together the money (from babysitting or mowing lawns) to pay for a replacement copy. I shudder to think what our fines would have been if we had been able to check out DVDs and audio books.
One of Denver’s suburban library districts and town council made the news recently, when a 19-year-old scofflaw failed to return a DVD on time. It wasn’t his inability to return the materials in a timely manner that got coverage in the news media, however, it was the municipal judge’s issuance of an arrest warrant and his subsequent stay in the city jail that created an uproar. Apparently, the young man never received the summons, as he had moved to a new apartment. Moving created the initial problem, as he stuck the DVD into packing boxes and forgot about ever returning it.
Complaints must have been made to the city council about the judge’s harsh treatment, because it wasn’t long before the judge himself had the book thrown at him. The reason given for his dismissal was a history of not giving proper notification when issuing summonses, as he never checked to see if they had been received before issuing the arrest warrants. No one said whether any of the other cases were missing library materials.
Material leakage is a problem at many libraries these days, so pursing one offender through legal channels must be seen as the best way to send the message to other possible library book and DVD losers. It could be viewed as a cautionary tale, as the lesson learned from this incident could be — Never throw the book at anyone unless you want it thrown back at you.