An incredible story – “Elizabeth Schaper said she was charged a 50-cent late fee while turning in a book that her late mother had checked out of a Harrison Public Library branch.”
September 26, 2007
The employee should have provided the person with a form they could complete, with a death certificate attached, to claim the amount. That may sound cold, but I can appreciate the position the librarian was in. The problem is that people lie, constantly and without shame, especially when faced with bureaucracy (such as library late fees). As a consequence, those people who provide the human face to that bureaucracy do not have the luxury of taking what people say at face value. More often then not, they are just trying to get out of some bad situation they have gotten themselves into, usually through their own neglect.
For the person who brought the book back, the act was cold and insensitive. For the librarian on the other side of the desk, this was one more person with some story trying to get out of paying their late fee. Once it was discovered that she was telling the truth, the fee was returned.
If the library doesn’t have a policy on how to handle late pees for people who are deceased, they should.
Late *fees*, of course…
I had a death certificate as proof, which I showed the man behind the desk. There was NO question that my mother had died…..this was not some excuse to get out of 50 cents—get serious. I told him this had “nothing to do with money, but was about principle. My father chaired the committee to build this library and helped finance the building of it; and our family had been exceedingly generous to this library with donations over decades; there is no excuse for such a policy. According to the director of the Westchester Library System, it is up to each Mayor of each Westchester village to set the policy for such fines; apparently the Mayor of Harrison is desparate for pennies.
I was there when it happened; she offered to let him see the death certificate. What really upset her, and she acted like a lady the whole time–calm voice, handed over the fine immediately; was that the clerk immediately said, “I am revoking your mother’s library priveleges immediately. Do you have her library card with you?” She quietly replied that she did not and left the library, in stunned silence. She handled herself like a lady in grief and mourning–it was painfully obvious on her face. She was trembling at one point and tears coming down. Such a sad situation. No human decency on the clerk’s part.
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