The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


May 3, 2013

Library throws book at scofflaws

Action serves notice to tardy borrowers

— Tardy library-book borrowers were sent a strong and eye-opening message with the arrest last week of a Pitt-Johnstown student.

The message, we hope you will agree, was overdue, too, and one library users everywhere should heed.

Library personnel put great value on the property entrusted to them, and for that we all should be grateful. And if you deal with a free service funded through tax money and dollars obtained in fundraisers, the least you can do is play by the rules.

Here’s what happened:

A West End young woman wrote to our Readers’ Forum to inform residents that she had been arrested for overdue library books.

“Yes, you read that right,” she wrote. “They were seven months overdue. The police came to my apartment and they took me away after showing a warrant for my arrest.”

She also stated that she suffers from “a panic disorder” and complained that the arresting officers were not all that sympathetic and, in fact, had called her names.

We believed the letter to be unusual and one requiring additional examination. Reporter Patrick Buchnowski investigated.

He found that two constables had gone to the 21-year-old woman’s apartment and transported her to a district judge’s office.

She was ordered to pay library fines and court costs totaling $252.27.

It would have been much cheaper to have returned the book on time, don’t you agree? We’re sure she does.

“We tell people in their final letter we want the book or we turn it over to the magistrate,” Lyn Meek, director of the Cambria County Public Library, told Buchnowski.

“We just want the book back.”  

She added that libraries send borrowers multiple notices before calling a magistrate.

Tying up busy, understaffed personnel with such unnecessary duties is certainly not beneficial to financially struggling libraries.  

Added Meek, “It’s public funds buying these materials. We should all have access to them.”

We absolutely agree, and we applaud the library’s actions.

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