The following is written by Simple Kids editor Kara Fleck.
This summer my family and I managed to rack up thirty four dollars in library fines. Thirty four dollars! I’m not sure if I should be proud or ashamed.
On the one hand, at ten cents a day per book, that number represents a lot of summer reading but on the other, building up enormous library late fees isn’t exactly the lesson in responsibility that I want to teach my children.
Luckily for my wallet, our sweet small town librarian waved the fines. (Possibly because she knows that at $1 sheet, my laminating habit will ensure that they get their money one way or another).
This amnesty, while kind, doesn’t relieve my guilt. I really need to do better about keeping track of the library materials we check out.
I know that the main problem is our relaxed summer schedule. Unlike during the rest of the year, our summer library day has floated around from week to week to the point that no one knows when anything is due anymore.
“Was this a Thursday check out? Or a Saturday check out? Or what about that time we dashed in real quick to get some books for the car ride to the family reunion?”
It also doesn’t help that we check out a variety of materials, so our designated space for library books on the bookshelf isn’t working when some things (audio books, dvds, vhs tapes) travel to other parts of the house for their use.
Having materials scattered all over the house only adds to the library due date confusion, as missing items are sure to be found only after we return from depositing their counterparts.
“Mom, I found that Rainbow Fairies book! It was under my bed …”
The third part of the equation is that I’m forgetful. If it isn’t written down, I don’t remember it. I don’t always remember to write it down when we’ve checked out items from the library and I often lose those receipts that they give us (ironically, they usually end up as bookmarks).
I’ll be honest and also admit that at ten cents per day, knowing that low fee will probably be waved for our family of bookworms (can I just brag for a minute that the entire library staff knows all of my kids’ names?), the fine isn’t steep enough to deter me.
The sad truth is that if the library really wanted to scare me into being a responsible patron, they’d charge a dollar a day for those books and dvds. Then I’d be crawling under beds and behind dressers in a heartbeat!
A few weeks ago, my friend Mandi of Organizing Your Way had a post about avoiding library fines. In addition to establishing a regular library day, Mandi suggests using a digital service like Library Elf to keep track of your library materials.
I had no idea such a service even existed, but it sounds perfect for someone like me who uses her computer more and more to go paperless with household documents.
A slip of paper I will probably lose (or use as a bookmark) but it is a little harder to misplace the home computer, so I’m going to give Library Elf a try.
I know that something else we need to do as a family is to re-think our current designated area for storing materials we’ve checked out. Perhaps we need a larger space on the bookshelf?
Or maybe individual bookshelves assigned per family member, so that the main offender has to be more accountable for ensuring the materials go back to that space when they are finished with them (though this may backfire as I suspect that the main offender is me!)
I also need to find a basket or tray near the television to hold the dvds and vhs tapes we check out. I know that these will migrate to the area we use them and perhaps eliminating their distance traveled in our home will help to keep them on hand when we are ready to return them?
In short, our current “system” (being very generous with the term here) isn’t working. Now that we’re back in school, I want to restore our rhythms with a set library day and I need a system for making sure we act responsibly as a family and get those materials returned on time.
How does your family handle library materials? Do you get them in on time? Or, like my family, do you tend to rack up the library fines? Any tips for staying organized?