More than $300,000 owed in unpaid fines at Las Cruces library

Thomas Branigan Memorial Library

A library in Las Cruces is out hundreds of thousands of dollars because of unpaid library fines.

There are more than $300,000 in overdue library fines at the Las Cruces Thomas Branigan Memorial Library.

During the City Council meeting on Monday, the issue was brought up by library representatives.

An audit at the library was conducted for the first time ever and found the outrageous number of fines.

From 2004 to 2012, the amount of fines reached $327,347.

“The biggest fines, the ones that are over $100, are usually non-returned items, because you get 10 cents a day if you don’t return an item and that's not a huge deal, but if you check out 30 books and don’t return any of them, it does add up,” Margaret Neil, library administrator, said.

The fines were from outstanding library books or movies people checked out and didn't return.

Library staff keeps contact information for everyone who signs up for a library card.

Monday, we spoke with people who admitted to racking up a few fines.

"I had some overdue fees. I had to pay them. They were, like, 20 years old, $10 or something. itIt was real easy. They didn't handcuff me or nothing,” Las Cruces resident Danny Graves said.

Workers are making calls to those with outstanding balances to try and collect the money owed.

Neil said an amnesty program is in the works to try and recover some of the items.

“If patrons want to return their items but they can’t afford to pay $300, we can at least waive the fines and get our materials back,” Neil said.

Neil said the library is now sending people email alerts when books are almost due.

One man said using the email alerts would be a great way to remind people of the consequences for not returning a book.

"I think that if the library made some sort of public statement regarding their policy regarding overdue fees, I think it would let people know exactly what's at stake here,” Las Cruces resident Brian Ray said.

The library is planning to run an audit check for missing books and items every year so it can avoid having the same thing happen again.

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