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A fine idea for libraries
Library assistant Jeff Pond checks in DVDs at the Monroe Public Library on Wednesday. To order this photo, click here. (Times photo: Marissa Weiher)
MONROE - A Wisconsin Senate bill stands poised to save public libraries countless dollars in late fees by allowing them to report recalcitrant borrowers to the police.

Wisconsin Senate Bill 466 allows libraries to disclose the identities of library patrons who fail to return materials on time to collection agencies. If borrowers owe $50 or more, the library is allowed to also notify law enforcement.

Although the bill is yet to be approved by Gov. Scott Walker, Suzann Holland, director of the Monroe Public Library, said she would welcome the benefits the bill can offer.

"The theft of library materials is a common problem," Holland said. "We're not talking about a single book that a patron doesn't return. A handful of patrons check out hundreds of dollars worth of materials and just never bring them back, ignoring our reminders."

Currently, the Monroe Public Library charges a 20-cent fine per day for overdue books. At this rate of payment, a missing book worth $10 would only be repaid after 50 days of late fees.

Holland said the library's most recent records reported 286 items stolen in a single year by patrons who never returned borrowed items. Although estimating the total value of the lost items is difficult, as their individual values vary wildly, even if each item was worth $10, the library would lose nearly $3,000 in lost property alone.

Holland said she also has to factor in the work it takes employees to identify the lost items, find replacements and pay processing fees.

Holland said that many other libraries report significantly greater losses each year.

"We really just want the materials back, but if we can be reimbursed for them, it

certainly will help to mitigate the public's losses," Holland said.