Hundreds of people have taken books from the Denver Public Library and never returned them, racking up so many fees that showing their face at the library is embarrassing -- and pointless, since $5 in fines means you can't borrow additional books. But even if all is not forgiven, the DPL is willing to meet its prodigal sons halfway in November, with a fee-forgiveness program that will halve accumulated fines if they pay a portion this month.
This is the second time the DPL has reduced fees this year, in a nod to its 125th anniversary. Back in August, the library dropped every borrowers' fees to $50, according to Jennifer Hoffman, DPL's manager of books and borrowing. But that program didn't attract as many people back to the library as predicted.
In August, the DPL also decreased its fees: Daily return fees dropped to twenty cents per item per day, and the maximum penalty per item per loan period was reduced from $10 to $3. Even so, since then at least one person has racked up $160 in additional fees.
If everyone takes advantage of this November opportunity, Hoffman says the library will forgive about $100,000 in fees -- but it's unlikely that hordes of scofflaws will come through the doors. Still, she anticipates an increase in revenue due to the forgiveness.
The most common unreturned items are DVDs: There are 19,839 DVDs currently in "lost" status. The most infamous thief in the library's history is Thomas Pilaar, who went to jail in 2008 for stealing around $35,000 worth of items under his seven false-identity library cards.
We were curious about the books people have never returned, and compiled this list of ten titles on the DPL's actual lost list that might explain the motivation behind the thefts.
10) Ricky Sticky Fingers, by Julia Cook
In this children's book, Little Ricky learns a lesson about stealing when a classmate takes an item from him. Unlike the person that borrowed this title from the DPL, little Ricky overcomes his bad intentions and learns to be good, returning all the items he's ever stolen.
9) Ethics, by G. E. Moore The borrower of this life-guiding gem obviously needed some guidance on right and wrong, and didn't know you could access the entire book's content online.
8) Life After Theft, by Aprilynne Pike
"Moving to a new high school sucks. Especially a rich-kid private school. With uniforms. But nothing is worse than finding out the first girl you meet is dead. And a klepto." With a description like that, how could you ever return this title?
7) Moral Philosophy: An Historical and Critical Survey of the Great Systems, by Jacques Maritain After studying how moral philosophy has developed through the centuries, maybe this borrower found it morally wrong to have to return the knowledge he'd gleaned from this heavy-topic book. Then again, maybe he didn't read it and it's under a table leg somewhere.
6) The Thief, by Megan Whalen Turner A young adult fantasy novel, this book highlights a trickster and liar whose crafty skills are necessary to steal a hidden treasure. We all know young adults read to escape their lives and yearn to be the characters they read about -- this borrower just took the title a bit too seriously.
5) Gandhi's Philosophy of Law, by V.S. Hedge
You'd think if you're studying someone like Gandhi, you would know that he'd frown on stealing a book. Or maybe the reader is taking one teaching -- "You must learn to be still in the midst of activity and to be vibrantly alive in repose" -- too literally, and a trip to the library is too much movement.
4) The Art of Selfishness, by David Seabury This book includes the article "12 Basic Needs You Must Not Be Denied," among other obnoxiously silly, step-by-step guides to improving your life. Well, if you borrowed a book to learn how to be selfish, it makes sense that the result was not wanting anyone else to learn from it.
3) Hey Idiot!: Chronicles of Human Stupidity, by Leland Gregory Enough said.
2) A Matter of Principle, by Ronald Dworkin We haven't read Dworkin's work, but since it claims to study "the balancing of individual rights versus the good of the community," we can probably assume that the reader thought his individual rights were more important than those of the community -- and kept the book.
1) The Generality of Deviance, edited by Travis Hirschi and Michael R. Gottfredson This 410-page book "advances the idea that all forms of deviant, criminal, reckless, and sinful behavior have one thing in common: the tendency to pursue immediate benefits without concern for long-term costs." Certainly that is true for those who have racked up hundreds of dollars in DPL fees.
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