By Flagg, Gordon
American Libraries , Vol. 32, No. 5
The San Francisco board of supervisors voted 6-5 March 19 to reject a plan to hire a collection agency to retrieve library materials that were 60 days or more overdue. The proposal by the San Francisco Public Library administration, which had the backing of the Library Commission, was aimed at stemming an annual loss of some 25,000 items--about 1% of the collection--at a cost of about $500,000.
Under the plan, the library would have sent delinquent borrowers three notices, after which the case would have been turned over to Unique Management Services, which contracts with some 300 libraries nationwide and nearly 50 in California. At that point a $10 collection fee would be added to the fine. For each successful retrieval, Unique would have received $8.95.
"The supervisors had some concerns that the measure may have been too harsh," explained SFPL spokesperson Marcia Schneider. They said the plan would be particularly harmful to people in hard economic circumstances, she added. Finally, she said, the opposition of the Librarians Guild sunk the measure.
Schneider said the library will now begin sending out second and third notices, with the third notice taking the form of a bill. One supervisor has expressed interest in the library making follow-up phone calls. In addition, if the board of supervisors gives its approval SFPL will soon be offering a fine amnesty.
Librarians Guild Chief Steward Catherine Bremer told American Libraries that the union's main objection was that use of the collection agency to retrieve overdue materials clearly constitutes contracting out. …