Communities use police, collection agencies for overdue library books

If you fail to return items to the library in some communities in Northeast Wisconsin, you may have to deal with the police.

Thirty-year-old Tabitha Oost checked out several items from the Shawano library in 2011. After she failed to return the items, the library referred the case to police.

In 2013, Oost was issued two tickets. When she failed to appear for two court hearings, a judge issued a warrant for her arrest.

That’s how she ended being taken to jail by a police officer in Green Bay.

“I thought he was joking, honestly, I couldn’t believe it,” Oost told FOX 11 Investigates. “I ended up laughing. The officer was laughing and then told me he was actually serious.”

Shawano police defend the practice, saying this can be a serious issue, especially when the cost of replacing the items goes into the hundreds of dollars.

“It is effective at the end of the day,” said Capt. Jeff Heffernon of the Shawano Police Department. “There certainly are alternatives but we really respond to complaints. As long as we have complaints and referrals from the library we will continue to attempt to locate the individuals that do this.”

What are some of those alternatives?

Some libraries in our area, including Brown County and Oshkosh, refer cases to collection agencies.

In Appleton, accounts are forwarded to the city attorney. If the attorney can’t get the matter resolved, the city will intercept a person’s tax return.

Some other communities, including libraries in Door County, Kaukauna and Oconto, simply send out bills to people hoping they pay.

Shawano is not the only community that turns some cases over to police. If you fail to return items to libraries in Algoma and Kewaunee, police may get involved.

In all of these communities, libraries stress that what they really want is for the materials to be returned. Any action, whether it’s a collection agency, a tax intercept or police, is a last resort.

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