Libraries Haunted by Missing Items Seek Collection Agencies for Help

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January 18, 2017 by Harry Stoll

I think Dr. Eleanor Twitty, the grey Librarian Ghost from the Ghostbusters movie must be very proud of Wisconsin.  If you recall, Dr. Twitty slimed Peter Venkman for simply whispering in the library halls.  I’ll never forget that look on his face and his words after, “She slimed me.”  Can you imagine what Dr. Twitty would have done to patrons who didn’t return books, CDs, magazines or publications taken from a community library?  Perhaps Dr. Twitty whispered in someone’s ear in Madison.

About a year ago Governor Walker signed Senate Bill 466 (more specifically the Return of Library Materials Bill) which gives Wisconsin’s public libraries the authority to enlist the help of collection agencies in seeking the return of borrowed items, or compensation for their value by library patrons,

2015 Senate Bill 466 clarifies confusing rules that prevented some Wisconsin libraries from pursuing outside help in collecting some of their delinquent materials.  The law allows libraries the ability to seek outside help from collection agencies to collect from patrons who have unreturned materials totaling over $50 in value.  It does not apply to library fines.

“This isn’t about nickel and dime fines for items that are returned late,” stated WLA Executive Director Plumer Lovelace.  “This is a serious issue.  More than $3 million worth of taxpayer-owned library materials are simply not being returned to our public libraries each year, despite months of repeated notices and calls from library staff.  Statewide, libraries are losing about 5% of their annual materials purchasing budget.”

For example, it’s estimated that the Brown County Library lists over 10,000 items each year as “lost” —a term designated for items out 40 days past their due date.

According to a press release by the Wisconsin Library Association, libraries take patron privacy seriously, as well as their responsibility for items purchased with tax dollars.  The new law provides a nice balance of both.  Disclosed patron information is limited to the individual’s name, contact information, amount owed, and the number and types of overdue materials.  Titles of materials may NOT be disclosed.

Previously, unless an exception applied, records of a public library that indicated the identity of any person who borrowed or used the library’s materials could not be disclosed.  This was preventing some libraries from seeking an outside remedy for some of their delinquent losses.

The Brown County Library director stated that he felt this new law provided important clarification that using a third party for collections is legal.

Another positive result of this new law is public awareness.  The bill is believed to have made people more familiar with library procedures and perhaps has influenced patrons to be more responsible with the materials they borrow.

At UCS, we understand how missing revenue can hurt any creditor—including public libraries. Unlike the Librarian Ghost we are soft collection specialists, committed to maintaining the important balance between results and relationships.

Founded in 1950, United Credit Service, Inc. is a full service, licensed revenue cycle management and debt collection agency in Wisconsin providing effective, customized one on one management and recovery solutions for our business partners. Visit our website at, call 877-723-2902 or check out our YouTube video.



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