In September 2013, a new law came into effect that defines the failure to return library books as thef, which is a felony. The new law makes sense; non-returning of library books drains recourses. In Texas alone, the libraries loose an estimated $18 million in “lost” books (around 1 million items). Since many communities have to deal with shrinking budgets and rising costs, they are looking for ways to have their library items returned in time.
The Texas procedure is as follows. Any library item that is not returned within 20 days carries a fine of $200. If this fine is not paid in time, a warrant will be issued by the municipal court for theft.
That’s what happened to Mr. Enck. The police went to his address due to a reported disturbance. Once they arrived, they arrested based on a previous warrant for theft of the study guide. He was promptly arrested for theft since he failed to return his overdue library book.
Mr. Enck was released on a $200 bond, and returned the book in question to library. He also turned to the media to state that he wouldn’t set foot in a library again: He also said: “I think I will probably just purchase a book from Amazon.”
Mr. Eck forgot to mention that he had not been able to return the guide earlier since he had to serve a three-year prison sentence for robbery.
Texas is not the only state cracking down on people like Mr. Enck. Iowa jails this kind of offenders for one week. A man from Newton (Iowa) served jail time of more than a week for not returning six CDs and eleven library books with a total worth of a whopping $770. Vermont and Maine are also cracking down people that don’t return their library items.
The Enck incident is for now an oddity. However, it could happen far more frequently in the (near) future, especially since after such an arrest, long overdue library items are suddenly returned.
So what do you think? Are libraries (and the government) correct to crack down on people like Jory Enck to preserve their assets?