Wednesday, September 26, 2007

NLB Recovery of Unpaid Fines

Just received a mail from the National Library (NLB) telling me that I have unpaid fines of 60 cents dating back almost 5 years ago. I must confess that the title listed looks familiar and I may have really incurred that fine then and slipped my mind to pay up the fine to NLB when I returned the book via book drop.

While I have no bone with NLB trying to recover unpaid fines, it appears that there is some logic problem with this latest exercise. The number of people with outstanding fines is huge standing at around 800,000 and NLB is incurring postage fines sending reminders to pay up fines as old as 10 years old. For my case, a fine of 60 cents being sought while using postage fees that are more than 1/3 the actual amount to be paid up.

I wonder if NLB will have fared better writing off amounts that are smaller and instead focusing efforts on recovering sums that are much larger. Why had the organisation not turned the situation around and used it to generate goodwill and positive publicity? Instead, it has blindly gone with recovering the fines after the release of the Auditor-General's Office (AGO) in June. While NLB should follow the AGO's recommendations to "step up its recovery of outstanding charges", perhaps it has implemented the recommendations too strictly and brought about a case of being penny wise, pound foolish.

Maybe a better long term solution is to freeze the loaning privileges of Library members instead of incurring the costs of mailing these reminders. When members patronise the Library and tries to borrow a book while he has outstanding fines, he can be redirected to the Library counters to pay up the fines before he can make loan. This way, the fines recovery process can be better targetted and the Library avoids unnecessarily extending loaning privileges to hardcore members who refuse to make good their fines.

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