Book ’em, Dano:
Council plans on more money for library materials, considers cracking down on overdue books
Kerry Craig | News-Telegram Assistant Editor

Aug. 19, 2005 -- The Sulphur Springs City Council has given tentative approval to a number of funding increases for the public library in the coming fiscal year.

Library employees would benefit from one planned increase that calls for a 2.5 percent cost of living raise for all city employees, but the budget allocates other funds for more materials for the Sulphur Springs Public Library.

The line-item increase for books at the library, while not one of the largest increases, is significant. An additional $4,700 that is slated to be pumped into the purchase of new books and materials will enable the library to meet standards established by the Texas Library Association.

After having been below the standards for some time, the funding allocation will bring the amount designated for materials to just above the recommended 10 percent of the total budgeted for library operations.

The planned budget calls for $329,306 for the library for 2005-2006, up from $313,709 in the current year, and includes $35,000 for new and replacement book, video, compact disc and digital video disc resources.

Library Director Kitty St. Claire said the additional funds will also enable the library to continue to meet the increased demands of its users.

The demands of library patrons can be somewhat overwhelming.

On a monthly basis, St. Claire said, more than 13,000 transactions are logged at the library and more than 1,000 patrons utilize the public computers in the library for research and Internet access.

One issue brought to city council members by the library concerned the number of library materials that are checked out but never returned, something St. Claire called “theft.”

“I have been working on this for years trying to do something about the theft, because it is extraordinary,” she said. “I am always treading water ... the collection cannot grow because of the theft and maintenance.”

City staff members are exploring several ways to get patrons to return books to the library. An automated system is already in place that will make several telephone calls to remind those with overdue library materials that the items need to be returned.

Another effort involves new users who are limited to only one book or item the first few times the items are checked out, a process not unlike establishing a credit history with the library.

The library director said the limits imposed on new or first-time users were implemented after it was found that a larger number of the thefts were attributed to new patrons.

The discussions have also included the police department, because failure to return library items can be considered a criminal offense.

In many cities, ordinances specifically address the theft of library books and enforcement action is possible.

“Other cities use their police department and use a letter saying it is a criminal offense when it reaches a certain amount,” St. Claire said. “We have what we term ‘seriously over-due’ that we have never been able to capture.”

Those seriously over-due library accounts may soon be turned over to the police department in an effort to get delinquent library patrons to return books and other borrowed materials.

“Hopefully that will take up some of the slack of many of the other things I have put into the procedure to try to capture those [overdue] books,” St. Claire said.

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