Library sends cop to get overdue books from 5-year-old

The public library in Charlton, Massachusetts doesn’t fool around. When a five-year-old girl and her mother forgot to return two books, the library called the police.

Shannon Benoit reads a book to daughter Hailey.

Shannon Benoit reads a book to daughter Hailey.

Police Sgt. Dan Dowd stopped by the home of Shannon Benoit to tell her she had two books several months overdue. Hailey burst into tears, afraid she’d be arrested.

The books were found and returned. The mom says she never received an overdue notice.

Though failure to return library books is a misdemeanor in Massachusetts, Charlton police didn’t want to get involved, said Dowd.  “But the library contacted us, and the chief delegated, and apparently I was one of the low men on the totem pole.”

It’s nice to know there’s so little crime in Charlton.

That should scare Haley away from the library, writes Betsy.

About Joanne


  1. Cranberry says:

    There is more to the story. They weren’t sent for the child–the father had overdue books.

    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.

    Our local library only charges overdue children’s accounts $5. Our librarian noted that fines assessed plunged once they started sending out email reminders before the due date.

    Should the library have used the police as a collection agency? Probably not, but it’s hard to know what they could have done to retrieve the library’s property.

  2. Michael E. Lopez says:

    I actually think it might be nice to live in a place where the library actually sent someone around to remind you about your books when you inadvertently become a scofflaw. (Can one inadvertently become a scofflaw?)

    It didn’t sound from the article like the cop went out with an arrest warrant or anything.

  3. Deirdre Mundy says:

    Our library actually uses a collections agency, but will call in the cops if someone steals a lot of books. (Because sometimes people will check out and never return thousands of dollars worth of materials. They basically get a card and then use the library as a one-time shopping spree. Should people like that get away with robbing the taxpayers?)

  4. Deirdre Mundy says:

    Also, with most libraries, if a book is overdue and you never return it, you get billed for the lost materials.

  5. Richard Nieporent says:

    Well at least they didn’t call out the SWAT team.

    Let’s have a little perspective here. I am as big a law-an-order type as anyone. However, what we are talking about here is $130 according to the newspaper article. Couldn’t they simply flag his library card so that he can’t borrow any more books until he pays the fine?

  6. Deirdre Mundy says:

    The cops were probably going to every house on the list. And cards DO get flagged–he obviously had no desire to return the book and check out more OR pay the replacement cost. When you get your card, you sign off promising to return books or pay replacement or be subject to legal penalties. This guy chose option 3.