To the editor:
As a patron of Alexandrias library system, and one who has only once been a day late returning a book, the hiring of a collection agency to recoup overdue fees (Libraries close the book on friendly overdue fees, May 19, 2011) most likely will not affect me. But as a taxpayer, and someone who did collection work for many years, I have concerns.
I seriously doubt that the $10 non-negotiable fee the agency tacks on to each bill will cover the cost of its efforts on behalf of the city. Typically, the contract costs the client a flat fee plus a percentage of what is collected. Agencies usually send several notices before they begin to make telephone contact not much different than what local employees are doing now. Many accounts are written off as uncollectible, and it takes quite a bit of time and, sometimes, legal action before a debtors credit is affected. This is common knowledge, and there is a percentage of delinquents that simply dont care, or already have damaged credit, diminishing the fear factor.
Put simply, the outsourcing of the effort may cost more than the monetary value of what is ultimately recovered.
In addition, hiring a collection agency to dun patrons may just end up being counterproductive and diminish the goodwill this community resource will need to tap in order to survive. Library systems already incur fees for accepting debit and / or credit cards, something that was not envisioned when they were founded. Perhaps the next step, and a better and more engaging option, would be to assess a nominal, upfront, membership fee perhaps tax deductible on the theory that those more invested in an institution will be more respectful and compliant.