Overdue fees: be shameless.

Here’s a funny article about a book returned to the New York Public Library… 55 years overdue.  It was returned anonymously, which started me thinking about one of my pet peeves.

Why do some people have this weird shame around overdue books?   So often people approach the desk with this hangdog look on their faces.  “I think I have some overdue fines,” they mutter, a little embarrassed.

Well, stuff happens.  Bringing a library book back a couple of days late, on the scale of things that fill our lives?  It just can’t rate that high.
I think it bothers me because it harkens back to those days when (some) libraries were bastions of sternness and judgment… which can’t have been good for anyone’s reading life.
So listen, friends: overdue fines are just little reminders that the library wants its stuff back for someone else to use.   It doesn’t say anything about you except that, like everyone else in this culture, you’ve got too much on your plate.

55 years late?  Well, that might be a different story….


—Mary Beth



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