Random Acts of Library Fine Paying

When people have overdue library books, what’s your assumption about those kind of people? Me, I figure they’re like me – the longer the book is around, the longer I just forget it’s not mine. Especially if no one asks for it back. (VPL, of course, reminds you regularly). I’m not proud of the fact I pay a fair bit in library fines and would pay more if it wasn’t for the fact that now I can go online and renew things up till midnight of the day they’re due. Given the number of books I borrow, I’d like for people to focus more on my enthusiasm for books and appreciation of the library than on my occasional tardiness.

So I had a chance to give back today. At the Unitarian Church, the volunteer librarian seeing a large book on the desk proclaimed to all in the room: Who is Joe Schmoe? (not his real name) This happens all the time! He’s tried to sneak this back without paying his fine. This has been out for a year.

Now I know Joe Schmoe and his wife and kids. They’re nice people. I don’t know why he didn’t show up in person, confess his sins and pay his fine, so I just said: I know Joe Schmoe and his family. Perhaps they just discovered they had the book and the library wasn’t open, so they left it and intended to come in later.

“No!” she replied forcefully. Basically insisting he was a person lacking inherent worth and dignity.

I had had two books in my hands – Jane Layton’s Escher mystery novel and a nonfiction book I’d been planning to at least browse through if not read. I carefully put them back where they were (Note to self: go to VPL website and put a hold on the Escher one.) As someone at risk of having my name proclaimed in a similar situation, I decided not to risk it.

And then, I had a thought.  “How much is the fine for that book?”

“Well, it’s a whole year overdue. So that’s 52 weeks times 25 cents per week. That’s $13!”

“I think I have that amount of cash with me. If I do, I’d like to pay for it.”

“You must really like Joe Schmoe! or the library! or the church!  I’ve never taken in this much money for the library … ever.”

“I know Joe and his family. I thought I’d do a random act of kindness. Don’t tell anyone please.”

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