The Denver Public Library is not the Wild West, despite what the New York Times says

Wouldn't it be great if you could just negotiate-away your overdue library fines? If you could stroll into the Denver Public Library, offer them $1 and have your borrower status upgraded from "terribly horrible" to "awesomely awesome"?

Well, you can't, despite what the New York Times says.

Yesterday, the Times ran a story called "New and Creative Leniency for Overdue Library Books" that gave a shout-out to DPL. "In Colorado, despite a multimillion-dollar deficit, the Denver Public Library has practically done away with fixed-rate fines," the Times declared. "Now librarians there are free to negotiate a fee structure that feels fair to them based on individual cases, or to charge nothing at all."

Not true, says Jennifer Hoffman, manager of books and borrowing at DPL.

The truth, as reported by us on this fine blog less than a week ago, is that the Denver Public Library will still slap you with a fine -- 25 cents a day, to be exact -- if you keep To Kill a Mockingbird past its due date. And come Friday, if you rack up more than $5 in fines, the library will block you from borrowing To Kill a Mockingbird 2 -- or any other book that actually exists.

Hoffman isn't sure how the miscommunication with the Times happened. But while there's no pay-what-you-wish policy at DPL, she says the library has always been willing to negotiate with borrowers who find themselves in sticky situations. The example she gave? If your car gets broken into and the thief steals your library books, you can bring a copy of the police report to the library and they won't make you pay to replace the stolen goods. The library has a heart, after all.

But it also has rules -- such as, if you borrow a book, please bring it back. And they're not changing them for anybody. Not even the New York Times.

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Melanie Asmar is a staff writer for Westword. She joined the paper in 2009 and has won awards for her stories about education, immigration and epic legal battles. Got a tip? She'd love to hear it.
Contact: Melanie Asmar