When the D.C. Library announced a two-month-long amnesty on fines for overdue books, the idea was to encourage patrons to return materials that they had long-ago checked out but never returned. The program, which ended earlier this month, was a more rousing success than anyone could have predicted.
According to library officials, the amnesty forgave some $103,302.23 in fines and led to the return of 21,075 books, magazines, DVDs, CDs and other materials that were either overdue or considered lost. But more than that, it was the type and age of some of the materials returned that surprised librarians.
One book had been overdue since 1978. In another case, a father returned a copy of “The Missing Mitten Mystery” by Steven Kellogg that his son had checked out in December 2000 for his first-grade book report. (They found the book as the son was packing up for college.) Another father returned a CD that had been checked out by his daughter who passed away this year and that he had found while cleaning out her room. According to library spokesman George Williams, “When they were told that we were in an amnesty period he was extremely grateful.” In a particularly interesting case, the library received a packed from American Airlines containing several books that had been left on different flights over the years.
Additionally, over 34,000 library users updated their accounts, many of which had been inactive for over three years.
As of late January, D.C. public libraries have done away with daily overdue fines, opting instead for a $5 fee on every item that overdue by more than 30 days. So if you’ve got a copy of Tina Fey’s “Bossypants,” please return it to avoid fines — and because everyone seems to want to read it.