By Meryl Baer
My granddaughter skipped over to the children’s room, chose half a dozen books, dumped them in my lap and began playing with toys strategically placed around the room.
Organizing Sami’s haul, I realized we did not have a library card with us. Hub approached the librarian, who told him we could not check out books without a valid card. We could not obtain a card without proof of county residence which, living in another state, we did not possess. The kids could not receive a card without a parent’s signature.
We needed another plan.Hub drove back to the house to retrieve a card. Problem remedied, or so we thought.
Meanwhile my 10-year-old grandson selected two books, but could not locate others he wanted. The librarian directed him to another section of the library, but Hal soon returned empty handed and despondent.
I suggested he place the books on hold. He wandered over to a computer and attempted to place the desired volumes on hold.
The computer refused his request. He tried again. Rejected again, he returned to the information desk. Something must be wrong with the computer, he informed the librarian.
After punching a series of keys on her computer the librarian informed my grandson no books could be put on hold or checked out because of unpaid fines.
Hal shuffled over and related the latest roadblock to his quest.
I approached the librarian. What was the problem?
Overdue fines invalidated the family’s library card. If the fines remained unpaid, money owed would be sent for collection on the first of the month, three days away.
Who ever heard of library fines sent to a collection agency?
“How much is due?” I innocently inquired.
“Fifty seven dollars and forty cents.”
Excuse me? Hub and I stared at each other. We must have heard wrong.
“Fifty-seven dollars and forty cents,” the librarian repeated.
Who owed so much money in library fines? At ten cents a day, that was a lot of unreturned books.
There was no mistake. Most of the fines, Hal sheepishly admitted, were for his books. But it was not all his fault, we later learned. Mom had a habit of riding around in the car for days with a stack of books in the trunk, intending to return them but never getting around to it.
There were two solutions to our dilemma. Leave the library with two despondent children, or pay the fine and complete our transactions.
Great grandparents that we are (great in the wonderful sense, not the generational way), we paid the fine.
Hal placed his desired books on hold.
We checked out the books both kids wanted and drove home.
It was, without a doubt, the most expensive trip to a free library I ever experienced.
About the author
Meryl Baer, recovering from a career in finance, writes about her life, travels, family, food and anything else she finds interesting on her blog Six Decades and Counting: Life Reinvented.