Overdue library books: pay the fine or you could be arrested

LIVINGSTON PARISH, LA (WAFB) - Thousands of Livingston Parish residents are getting letters warning that they could be arrested for having overdue library books.

One woman says she feels she's being threatened, over a $9 fine.

"Only in Livingston Parish," said Cynthia Scott, holding onto three pieces of paper she pulled from her mailbox last week. "There's drug dealers, rapists and murderers...but they'll arrest me for an overdue library fine."

Scott doesn't have a problem with what is written on the pages, but it's the letter on the district attorney's office letterhead that's got her questioning priorities. Around 4,500 Livingston Parish residents received letters.

"A warrant issued for your arrest," she read off that page.

Scott says sometime last summer, her son checked out several books and a DVD from the library. They returned them three weeks past the due date. She says in December she got a letter saying two things were still missing: the case to the DVD and a book.

The book, she says they found, the DVD case she acknowledges is lost. She says when they returned the book she asked the person at the library to check her account to see if there was anything else missing or owed. She says she was told no.

So when the three letters showed up at her house last week, she was confused.

"I just get this letter saying we owe. If I don't take care of it, they're going to issue a warrant for my arrest."

Scott says she's not the only one. She actually put a post on her Facebook page about it and several people responded. One woman commented she got the same letters, but tossed them to the side.

"I told her she should go back and read it," Scott said.

The first letter from the library director warns they are taking serious measures to collect missing items. The second page, lists the missing items and the total owed. For Scott, it's $8.99. The third page from District Attorney Scott Perrilloux warns failing to pay could mean criminal charges and a warrant for arrest.

The library director, Giovanni Tairov, says he realizes the letter is worded strongly, but the fact of the matter is every year the library is losing money from missing and unreturned items. So much so he says that right now, they are out $250,000.

Tairov says back in 2007, the library was out $20,000 from missing materials. That number has continued climbing higher. He says in 2012, the amount sky rocketed to $60,000.

He says he checked with other library systems around the state and learned others use similar letters as a last resort. He adds the money they're losing is eating into the budget for new books. Tairov says it's not really the money they are after, but they do want their materials back so that others can use them as well.

Either way, Scott believes police officers should be left to catch the real law breakers. She says if the library is losing large amounts of money, "Maybe they should try to get a small down payment when we check out books. When we return them, you get the money back."

Scott says she is planning to pay her $8.99 fine. The library director says since the letters went out, they have gotten some of the missing items back and checks are being turned in as well.

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