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Library System won't charge overdue fines

Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

It may seem too good to be true –– but it isn't.

The Clayton County Library System is giving people the opportunity to return overdue items and have their overdue fines voided, said Yvonne Carmicheal, assistant director for technical services at the library system.

Carmicheal said items, such as books, audio books and videos, can be returned during the "Fine Amnesty" period, from April 2, to April 18, at any of the system's six locations.

"We want to give people a chance to return their overdue items, and get their accounts cleared with us," before they are turned over to a debt-collection agency, she said.

According to the library system's web site –– www.claytonpl.org –– the branch libraries include: the Headquarters Branch, at 865 Battle Creek Road, Jonesboro; the Forest Park Branch, at 696 Main St., Forest Park; the Jonesboro Branch, at 124 Smith St., Jonesboro; the Lovejoy Branch, at 1721 McDonough Road, Hampton; the Morrow Branch, at 6225 Maddox Road, Morrow; and the Riverdale Branch, at 420 Valley Hill Road, Riverdale.

The operation hours are Mondays and Tuesdays, from 9 a.m., to 9 p.m.; Wednesdays through Fridays, from 9 a.m., to 6 p.m.; and Saturdays, from 9 a.m., to 5 p.m. The Headquarters Branch is also open on Sundays, from 1:30, to 5:30 p.m.

Carmicheal added that people can also drop off items at book-drop locations at all of the branches. The book drops are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

There is no limit to the number of items that can be returned, and it doesn't matter how long they have been overdue, she said. These materials are owned the Clayton County libraries, she stressed.

Carol Stewart, director of library services for the Clayton County Library System, said during the fiscal year ending on June 30, 2010, the library system had 7,139 items that were not returned, and it had circulated about 665,000 items.

"It makes up about 1 percent that did not get returned," said Stewart.

Items do not have to be returned to the specific Clayton County library from which they were checked out, but they must be given back to one of the Library System's six branch locations, added Carmicheal.

Carmicheal said beginning April 19, the system will begin to use Unique Management Services, a debt-collection agency that only works with libraries.

Unique Management Services will target people with overdue fines of $25 or more. If people refuse to pay, the agency will turn it over to consumer credit reporting agencies, such as Equifax, Inc.

Director of Library Services Stewart said Unique Management Services will add an additional $10 to the overdue fines of $25 or more, on April 19.

People with overdue fines of less than $25 will be continued to be notified the library, said Stewart.

Carmicheal said it is important for the system to have these items back in its collection, for others to use. "People are asking for items that we owned, and we can't provide them, because they are long overdue," she said.

Carmicheal added that the money that would have been collected, if the "Fine Amnesty" weren't in place, will not affect the system adversely. The library system just wants the materials returned, she said.

"We are a county department of Clayton County," said Carmicheal. "Any money that we receive goes to the county."

She said this is the second time the library system has offered "Fine Amnesty." The first time was in May of 2001, before the system became a part of Public Information Network for Electronic Services (PINES), a program from the Georgia Public Library Service. The public automation and lending network is used most libraries in the state of Georgia, she added.

Stewart explained that "Fine Amnesty" was a great success in 2001, because many materials were returned.

The library system, however, does not plan to offer the "Fine Amnesty" program again, added Stewart.