Overdue Books Affecting Credit Score

January 14, 2007 at 10:28 pm 21 comments

I am sitting here watching the local evening news when a story comes on about the fact that if a library reports your overdue fines to a collection agency you can lose anywhere from 50 to 100 points from your credit score. Wow, that is a lot of points for overdue books!

I only caught a portion of the story (Mommy duties intervened), but what I did catch was an interview with a library director stating something to the effect that in times of budget cuts it is essential that libraries make it know that overdue materials affect the bottom line.

I went searching for some reference to this story, and found an article published today on Kiplinger.com called Boost Your Score that starts with this tidbit:

Pop quiz: Which affects your credit score more, getting married or having overdue library books?

Surprise answer: A library fine that goes to collection can shave 100 points off your credit score — and boost your annual interest payments by hundreds of dollars. But getting married doesn’t affect your score at all unless you co- sign for a loan with your new spouse.

I am not entirely convinced that library fines are even needed in the first place, so my gut reaction to having someone’s credit score ruined by late library books doesn’t sit well with me at all. I might be more sensitive to this as I protect my credit score with a passion ever since I had to work so hard to build it from scratch when I first moved to the USA 9 years ago. None of your credit history follows you across the border (so I discovered, much to my dismay) and I could not get a credit card, car loan or any other other loan to save my soul for several years. A few points off your credit score can make a big difference in loan rate and I am sure that the average citizen watching this news segment did not get a warm fuzzy feeling about libraries learning that we could be the ones to impact their future mortgage rate.

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21 Comments

  • 1. Anonymous  |  January 14, 2007 at 11:20 pm

    Really now, we only want our books back.

    A patron has to be abusing her borrowing priveleges pretty badly before most libraries would refer a claim to a collections agency.

    If you owe $20 because you sometimes return something late and it’s added up over the years, a library will likey just suspend your priveleges until you pay.

    If you owe $500 because you lost several books and you don’t respond to the library’s pleas for payment, there should be serious consequences.

    Overdue fines are a symbol of accountability and public trust. I would be happy to do away with them too, so let’s come up with another symbol.

  • 2. Anonymous  |  January 14, 2007 at 11:20 pm

    Really now, we only want our books back.

    A patron has to be abusing her borrowing priveleges pretty badly before most libraries would refer a claim to a collections agency.

    If you owe $20 because you sometimes return something late and it’s added up over the years, a library will likey just suspend your priveleges until you pay.

    If you owe $500 because you lost several books and you don’t respond to the library’s pleas for payment, there should be serious consequences.

    Overdue fines are a symbol of accountability and public trust. I would be happy to do away with them too, so let’s come up with another symbol.

  • 3. Liz B  |  January 15, 2007 at 8:38 am

    I don’t think the library should rely on the income from fines; the only “good” I see from fines is (a) getting the materials back and (b) getting materials back in a timely manner when other people are waiting for them.

    I admit I don’t have a well thought out alternative to fines across the board; but I do think that currently, fines take up so much energy (tracking the down, explaining to patrons, patrons who know enough to complain loudly getting them waived, issues with parents about kids/teens books and amounts owed, etc) that could be spent on more productive things.

  • 4. Liz B  |  January 15, 2007 at 8:38 am

    I don’t think the library should rely on the income from fines; the only “good” I see from fines is (a) getting the materials back and (b) getting materials back in a timely manner when other people are waiting for them.

    I admit I don’t have a well thought out alternative to fines across the board; but I do think that currently, fines take up so much energy (tracking the down, explaining to patrons, patrons who know enough to complain loudly getting them waived, issues with parents about kids/teens books and amounts owed, etc) that could be spent on more productive things.

  • 5. Janie L. Hermann  |  January 15, 2007 at 8:46 am

    Good point anonymous — it is likely only the really serious offenders that get reported. Perhaps the point of my post should have been the bad rap this news story gave libraries as it made it seem as if reporting to a collection agency was common practice for some libraries. We *do* need to get our books back, but fines just seems so counterproductive at times (as Liz pointed out).

  • 6. Janie L. Hermann  |  January 15, 2007 at 8:46 am

    Good point anonymous — it is likely only the really serious offenders that get reported. Perhaps the point of my post should have been the bad rap this news story gave libraries as it made it seem as if reporting to a collection agency was common practice for some libraries. We *do* need to get our books back, but fines just seems so counterproductive at times (as Liz pointed out).

  • 7. Lucian  |  January 17, 2007 at 12:59 pm

    Our library recently began working with a collection agency – we don’t charge overdue fees, but we do charge for damaged books and “lost” books (books are lost when they’ve been overdue for 3 months). Any amount below 40 dollars results warnings, but no suspension. Above 40 dollars, and we start to warn patrons through letters, and a blocked account. There are many notices and warnings, and if necessary, a collection agency goes to work – all this before any kind of report is filed. All in all, our patrons have over 220 days to pay their fines or return their books, without anything effecting their credit.

    What bothers me a little about the Credit Score story is that everything got lumped under “overdue books,” as the ‘indiscretion’ that ruined the credit score, when as ‘anonymous’ said, “A patron has to be abusing their priveleges pretty badly.” It would be interesting to get some input from libraries that use collection agencies, to find out how much patrons have to owe before they get sent, and what other items effect policy, and how many of those libraries even have ‘overdue’ fines.
    Sounds like a good project for a graduate student and a surveymonkey :)

  • 8. Lucian  |  January 17, 2007 at 12:59 pm

    Our library recently began working with a collection agency – we don’t charge overdue fees, but we do charge for damaged books and “lost” books (books are lost when they’ve been overdue for 3 months). Any amount below 40 dollars results warnings, but no suspension. Above 40 dollars, and we start to warn patrons through letters, and a blocked account. There are many notices and warnings, and if necessary, a collection agency goes to work – all this before any kind of report is filed. All in all, our patrons have over 220 days to pay their fines or return their books, without anything effecting their credit.

    What bothers me a little about the Credit Score story is that everything got lumped under “overdue books,” as the ‘indiscretion’ that ruined the credit score, when as ‘anonymous’ said, “A patron has to be abusing their priveleges pretty badly.” It would be interesting to get some input from libraries that use collection agencies, to find out how much patrons have to owe before they get sent, and what other items effect policy, and how many of those libraries even have ‘overdue’ fines.
    Sounds like a good project for a graduate student and a surveymonkey :)

  • 9. Anonymous  |  January 22, 2007 at 4:18 pm

    I say that this contributes to our images as weak. “Stealing from us? No problem. Taking city property? Well, it’s nothing that should get you a higher interest rate on that dinette set. Just try not to stomp on us too hard when you leave.”

    I’m not feeling that. At all. Librarians know when someone has fines, when someone has a lot of fines and when someone is screwing with us.

    We don’t use a collection agency and don’t need to. But if I did and it was threatening the collection or my budget I’d be turning them over at the drop of a hat. I’d even be figuring out how to get the cops called on them.

  • 10. Anonymous  |  January 22, 2007 at 4:18 pm

    I say that this contributes to our images as weak. “Stealing from us? No problem. Taking city property? Well, it’s nothing that should get you a higher interest rate on that dinette set. Just try not to stomp on us too hard when you leave.”

    I’m not feeling that. At all. Librarians know when someone has fines, when someone has a lot of fines and when someone is screwing with us.

    We don’t use a collection agency and don’t need to. But if I did and it was threatening the collection or my budget I’d be turning them over at the drop of a hat. I’d even be figuring out how to get the cops called on them.

  • 11. credit card holder  |  May 2, 2007 at 3:49 am

    Our libraries began to cooperate with collection agency-is not a good thing, especially for those who overdue books. Sometimes it happens because of unexpected factors. That is really a lot of points to lose for overdue books!

  • 12. credit card holder  |  May 2, 2007 at 3:49 am

    Our libraries began to cooperate with collection agency-is not a good thing, especially for those who overdue books. Sometimes it happens because of unexpected factors. That is really a lot of points to lose for overdue books!

  • 13. merry  |  May 6, 2007 at 11:03 pm

    We should always aspire to higher credit score to get benefits and use

  • 15. credit fan  |  May 21, 2007 at 6:17 am

    Good day! I do not get books in library. But I believe those who do and take care of their credit score will be more punctual in returning books. Nobody wants to lose points.

  • 16. credit fan  |  May 21, 2007 at 6:17 am

    Good day! I do not get books in library. But I believe those who do and take care of their credit score will be more punctual in returning books. Nobody wants to lose points.

  • 17. Anonymous  |  June 3, 2007 at 10:10 am

    I think the $20 in collections ruining your credit score is overkill.

    I recently looked at my credit score and found that it had dropped by almost 100 pts becasue of one collection of $85 which I was never notified about and do not have any idea what its for; other then it was originally from AT&T. Needless to say I will never do business with AT&T again.

  • 18. Anonymous  |  June 3, 2007 at 10:10 am

    I think the $20 in collections ruining your credit score is overkill.

    I recently looked at my credit score and found that it had dropped by almost 100 pts becasue of one collection of $85 which I was never notified about and do not have any idea what its for; other then it was originally from AT&T. Needless to say I will never do business with AT&T again.

  • 19. Humanus  |  December 3, 2007 at 8:16 am

    Librarian? They also have a deal with your credit score?

  • 20. credit score  |  January 2, 2008 at 10:35 am

    Thanks for those tips on improving the scores. I think the more good history you get the better your score. But now banks are not lending money so easily.


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