The Mabel C. Fry Public Library partnered with Unique Management Services Inc. for collection of past due library accounts in excess of $50.
Unique Management Services is a material recovery agency that works with libraries to help give libraries some authority in collecting past due accounts.
Sara Schieman, librarian at the Mabel C. Fry Public Library, said they have always tried to be a “kinder, gentler” library when it came to past due accounts. They would contact them before items were due then give multiple notices through calls, emails, letters and even texts. They also try to make it easy for customers by allowing them to choose how they will be communicated with by library staff.
The problem, however, is that libraries are no longer just books with the reference section being the biggest, most expensive books. Libraries now have electronic items and devices that are pricy, Schieman said.
For example, Yukon’s library has learning Launchpad tablets for children available for checkout that are valued at between $99 and $159. One of the tablets were not returned and there’s not much the library can do about it other than not allow them to check out anything else or use the public access computers.
“That’s not like replacing a paperback book, that’s a big burden to replace. And that won’t ever be donated. We get books donated to us, but no one is going to be like ‘here’s a brand new Launchpad,’” Schieman said.
The library also does learning kits that the staff takes the time to put together. The kits come in a bag that include puzzles, books, games, DVDs, music and more—all on a specific subject so it’s like a full curriculum, Schieman said. Altogether the kits are approximately worth $150 so it’s a huge burden on the library’s budget and the library staff’s time if they’re not brought back.
Schieman said they had all of the learning kits completed, one of them being on insects. It was the first one checked out and wasn’t brought back so she knew that was the point she had to do something more than what they could then do.
Librarians come together as part of the Oklahoma Library Association’s Public Library Directors Council and other libraries uses Unique Management Services and were happy with their service so Schieman went to the city manager to ask if it was okay for her to begin working with them. It was then taken to Tuesday’s City Council where it was approved 5-0.
The library will start a 90 day trial with the material recovery agency then will continue the service if happy with them.
“It will take a while for everything to be set up,” Schieman said. “It’s a months-long process.”
She added that they’ve already begun updating the library’s policies and will also be posting signs around the library and releasing information so people aren’t surprised by the new service.
Schieman said she doesn’t anticipate a large number of accounts being sent to Unique Management Services because most people check things out and bring them right back, but some others don’t.
There won’t be any surprises and people will still be receiving notices before the account is sent for recovery.
Any accounts with a past due balance of $50 or more will be directed to Unique Management Services for recovery purposes. A $10 fee will be added to their accounts for the use of the service, as it costs the library $8.95 per every account sent to Unique Management.
The library’s software connects to Unique Management’s software so although people may be getting a call from Unique Management if their account is passed due, they will still only deal with library employees to take care of the account and return things to the library.
“I just encourage people to bring stuff back so everyone in the community can use it. That’s what it’s for,” Schieman said. “I would be happy if people just brought their stuff back and we never had to use the service, but that’d be in a perfect world.”