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Overdue Library Books Can Hurt Your Credit

CBS | October 20, 2005

Things that ruin your credit: paying bills late, skipping credit card payments, and not returning a library book.

Laura Tropea was turned over to a collection agency after she failed to pay late fees for borrowed books.

"I had checked my Equifax credit report in May of this year and found out that I had a library fine that was sent to a collection agency," says Tropea.

Public libraries throughout New York and New Jersey are cracking down on overdue borrowers.

With recent budget cuts and smaller staffs, libraries are forced to find new revenue for missing books, movies and CDs. Librarian Chris Surovich with Ossining Public Library says her branch had nearly $53 thousand dollars in outstanding items.

“We felt that we had such outstanding debt,” says Surovich, “that we felt it was important to be responsible for these materials and we had to do something.”

Surovich says late fees add up quickly. Even though libraries only charge 10 cents a day for overdue books and one dollar a day for late CDs and movies.

“One patron can come in and borrow seven videos, they can borrow unlimited number of books, so it does add up quickly,” Surovich said.

Kenes Bowling is with the agency that collects fines for more than 700 libraries. He says right now they have a 70 percent success rate, both on returned items and collected late fees.

"A library debt is like any other. If it appears on a credit report as an unpaid obligation, it will effectively impede credit," said Bowling.

Credit counselors say those late fees can even lead to a denied mortgage or credit card application, but some libraries are taking it a step further.

In Massachusetts, a patron was initially arraigned on four counts of theft, but Chris Surovich says libraries in Westchester aren't as aggressive.

“We are more than happy to lend materials, but if we don’t have any materials on our shelves to lend anymore, than that's a problem.”

Laura Tropea has returned her books, and is now working with the collection agency.

"To the best of my knowledge, the fine is still on my credit report," Tropea said.

Local libraries say they will negotiate with you over late fees, especially if it involves children. As for the collection agency, a representative said if you pay off your fine, it won’t hurt your long-term credit.

Here is a list of libraries in our area that do this:

Atlantic City Free Public Library NJ
Atlantic County Library NJ
Burlington County Library NJ
Camden County Library NJ
Cherry Hill Free Public Library NJ
Clifton-Halfmoon Public Library NY
Crandall Public Library NY
East Brunswick Public Library NJ
Edison Township Free Public Library NJ
Freeport Memorial Library NY
Guernsey Memorial Library NY
Hunterdon County Library NJ
James Prendergast Library Association NY
Jericho Public Library NY
Jervis Public Library Association NY
Lockport Public Library NY
Long Beach Public Library NY
Longwood Public Library NY
Mastics-Moriches-Shirley Community Library NY
Middlesex Public Library NJ
Monroe County Library System NY
Mount Laurel Library NJ
Mount Vernon Public Library NY
New Rochelle Public Library NY
North Babylon Public Library NY
Nyack Library NY
Ocean County Library NJ
Ossining Public Library NY
Penfield Public Library NY
Penn Yan Public Library NY
Piscataway Township Free Public Library NJ
Pittsford Community Library NY
Queens Borough Public Library NY
Riverhead Free Library NY
Sachem Public Library NY
Somerset County Library NJ
South Brunswick Public Library NJ
South Huntington Public Library NY
South Plainfield Free Public Library NJ
Southeast Steuben County Library NY
The New York Public Library NY
Webster Public Library NY
Westchester Library System NY
Woodbridge Public Library NJ
Yonkers Public Library NY


Last modified October 20, 2005




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