Libraries and Collections Agencies - it's about Public Accountability
So there's an opinion piece in the NY Times that superficially seems reasonable, but is really pretty far off.
Throwing the Book at Them
[Opinion]. Published: December 27, 2007
I might not be remembering the details correctly, but from what I know, public libraries at least in my state are county agencies -- part of the county government. Some change in law for accounting in municipalities happened a few years ago that made the overdue items show up on county books as being debts. It was looking like there were $3 million in uncollected debts and these were going against the county's bottom line.
Even if I'm remembering that wrong, the thing is that we expect our government agencies to be accountable and to be responsible with our tax dollars. The point of a library is for the community to make use of the materials. If one person abuses the system, then others in the community lose out. If the library spends public tax dollars on materials, and then lets individuals remove them from public use then the library looks like it's wasting taxpayer money.
When libraries hire collections agencies, there are a couple of agencies that have library specific programs. The letters are seriously toned down, and the patron has every chance to make it right. Frequently, all sorts of accommodations can be made to help the person out -- particularly before it goes to collections. Unfortunately, there are a few bad eggs (the woman who checked out and sold all the books, CDs, and videos on her record, then did the same for each of her children's records).
In any case, be considerate and return the books if they are recalled or when you are done with them. Take care of the books as if they were your own.