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Overdue books rack up £1.3m for county council

PUBLISHED: 06:56 10 February 2014 | UPDATED: 09:27 10 February 2014

The Forum in Norwich.  Photo: Bill Smith

The Forum in Norwich. Photo: Bill Smith

Archant © 2011

Library users in Norfolk have paid more than £1.3 million in overdue book fines in the last five years and still owe more than £90,000.

Forgetful bookworms have left the county council service awaiting the return of more than 60,000 overdue books from its inventory of 1.1 million titles.

The “missing” list is packed with books from all ends of the literary spectrum, including work from authors William Shakespeare, George Orwell, Stephen King and Barbara Cartland.

There are also five copies of Markus Zusak’s international best-seller, The Book Thief, 14 titled “Stolen”, and four copies of J.D Robb’s Lost.

But it’s children’s books that make up the bulk of the list, with titles from the likes of Fiona Watt, Jacqueline Wilson and J.K Rowling featuring heavily.

Bedtime favourites The Gruffalo, by Julia Donaldson, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle, and Jeff Kinney’s Dog Days/Diary of a Wimpy Kid top the list of the most instances of being overdue.

Jennifer Holland, Head of Libraries and Information, said the figures could be put in context by remembering that Norfolk Libraries lend more than six million items a year - more than any other county council library service.

“I’m sure many of us will have forgotten to return a library book at one time or another and indeed the majority of overdue items are returned before we need to take any formal action at all,” she said.

“However we do take the cost and inconvenience to other customers seriously in following up the outstanding accounts and try to help borrowers avoid fines by encouraging sign up to receive our pre overdue reminder emails.

“Our aim is to be constructive and support people to clear their accounts and return items, especially if there are difficult personal circumstances. All the money from overdue charges is spent within the library service, helping to fund costs of stock, staffing, vehicles and buildings.”

A council spokesman said books are initially chased through a series of reminders.

But when a response is not received, a Stock Recovery Officer may be called into action to hunt down the missing title.

Fines for overdue books start at just 10p a day, rising to 50p for the first week and then £1 a week until it hits a ceiling of £6.50.

For children, fines start at 5p a day, rising to 20p for week one, and then up to a ceiling of £2.

Repeat offenders are treated leniently by the library service, with borrowing only being suspended after a “fair warning”.

Do you think Norfolk Libraries should do more to crack down on overdue book borrowers? Let us know by emailing newsdesk@archant.co.uk

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