Pitt-Johnstown student Melody Barkhimer said she was shocked when two constables showed up at her G Street home on Tuesday. Shock turned to panic when they arrested her.
Her crime? An overdue library book.
“I was crying,” said Barkhimer, 21. “They handcuffed me. I didn’t know what to do. I was having a panic attack.”
Barkhimer pleaded guilty the same day to retaining library property before District Judge Max Pavlovich of Richland Township.
She failed to return the book “Gift of Jazzy,” which she borrowed July 31, 2012. Barkhimer was ordered to pay library fines and court costs totaling $252.27.
Libraries in the region operating on tight budgets are turning to the courts to help track down delinquent book borrowers.
Libraries send borrowers multiple notices before calling a magistrate, said Lyn Meek, director of the Cambria County Public Library. Borrowers receive an email three days before the material is due, she said. Two letters are sent seven days apart before a third letter is sent.
“We tell people in their final letter we want the book or we turn it over to the magistrate,” Meek said. “We just want the book back.”
The magistrate’s office also sends three notices before an arrest warrant is issued.
Meek said patrons need to be aware of the consequences of not returning borrowed materials. “It’s public funds buying these materials,” she said. “We should all have access to them.”
Barkhimer said she had changed her email address and her home address and never received the notices.
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