Holding overdue library books is a misdemeanor crime, and a growing number of law enforcement agencies are actually enforcing the rule, The Huffington Post reported earlier this week. Most recently, a 5-year-old girl from Charlton, Mass. was visited by a police offer sent to collect two overdue books, along with an overdue audio book held by her father, which had accrued $100 in late fees. According to the Worcester Telegram newspaper, the visit was one of 13 area visits meant to collect $2,634 in significantly overdue materials.
After the issue gained national attention, the library told the newspaper that the 5-year-old was not the target of the police visit, though the incident left her in tears and fearful of arrest:
Shannon Benoit said she was home with her youngest daughter, Hailey, on Dec. 27 when a "very respectful and professional" police Sgt. Daniel P. Dowd knocked and asked her to contact the library regarding overdue books.
When she closed the door, Ms. Benoit found 5-year-old Hailey standing behind her in tears.
"She asked me if the police were going to arrest her. I wanted the story to come out because I think that using police officers to retrieve library books from children is just ridiculous," Ms. Benoit said.
After Ms. Benoit called the media, a CBS Boston (Channel 4) story that aired Monday, saying police had come to collect Hailey's overdue books, gained national attention.
"I'm getting email from all over the country. I've been called a f-ing moron, an idiot, a Nazi, a communist," Library Director Cheryl Hansen said in an interview yesterday. "I've also had several library visitors today say they supported the decision."
Hailey's borrowed books, due in October 2010, were of small value. It was her father's $100 audiobook, overdue since April 2009, that placed Tony Benoit's address among the 13 to receive police visits. The 13 homes collectively held $2,634 in significantly overdue materials.
Charlton library officials recently decided to collect the $2,634 by exercising their rights under state law. The Benoit family was responsible for $130 of that $2,634.
Image: Library books, via Shutterstock.