Library books or dope - same difference

Filed under: Just For Moms, Weird But True, That's Entertainment

When Ellie and I go to the public library, we check out about 20 books at a time. I am a stickler for being on time for everything, so we always get the books back to the library by the due date. Except that one time when we mixed up some school library books with some public library books and it took quite a while to sort that out.

Fortunately, all that mistake cost me was a couple of dollars in fines. But in Beloit, Wisconsin, they will put your butt in jail for overdue library books. Keely Givhan found this out the hard way. Givhan, the mother of a little boy and a student at a technical college, was in the process of moving and forgot to return some children's and crafts books she had checked out from the Beloit Public Library.

When she failed to return the books by two weeks after the due date, the library sent several notices to her address. They sent more notices when the books were four weeks and six weeks overdue. Because she had moved, Givhan never got the notices and the library didn't bother to phone her before issuing a citation with a mandatory court date. The citation included $172 in court fees and an additional $159 in restitution for the books. Of course, she didn't get that notice either and failed to appear in court. A warrant was then issued for her arrest.

Months later, she got pulled over for a missing license plate light bulb and the warrant was discovered. She went straight to jail, where she sat for six days because her family couldn't come up with the money to pay the fines. Six days! That's more than Nicole Richie got for driving drunk!

I think that is way harsh, but Beloit Police Captain Bill Tyler believes otherwise. "We have thousands and thousands of warrants to serve, and a lot of people with unpaid fines," he said. "Whether you've got dope or library books, it can happen."

Library director Dan Zack also defends the swift justice of the public library system. "What that is, essentially, is a theft of library materials. That's taxpayer dollars walking out the door," he explained. "It's no different than walking into a retail store and walking out with merchandise."

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.