Library late fees

I have a confession. Although I'm responsible when it comes to work and my personal finances, I've always been a bit lax when it comes to turning in my library books on time.

I've rationalized this tardiness by telling myself that paying late fees is an easy way to donate to libraries.

On a recent trip to the Ashland Branch Library, the librarian at the checkout counter told me that I had overdue fines on my account. That wasn't unusual, but then she handed me a bookmark with information about how I could sign up for a service that would send me warning e-mails before my books were due.

I decided to find out whether my method of "donating" to the library via late fines was really helping or I should sign up for the warning notices.

Branch Manager Amy Blossom told me my fines were not going directly to the Ashland branch, which is part of a countywide library system run by a private company, but into the county's general fund.

"It's an indirect way to fund the library. If the county didn't collect as many fines, it might be that library funding might be cut," Blossom said.

She said the purpose of late fees is to motivate people to turn in their books so other patrons can check out the material. (Thanks, Amy, for telling me this in a kind way instead of giving me the scolding I deserved.) She said if a person wants to donate to libraries, better methods are to send a donation directly to Friends of the Ashland Public Library or to send a check to Jackson County and specify that it's for the library.

Suitably chastened, I decided to sign up for the overdue warning service. It's offered by Elf, an Internet-based business operating in America and Canada.

The service is free to users of the Jackson County library system because it subscribes to the service, according to Elf's Web site.

Signing up was quick and easy. (I spent a lot more time checking to make sure I wasn't going to be hit with Elf charges than I spent signing up.) If you want to try it, go to the Jackson County Library Services Web site at By the way, if you haven't used that Web site before, you can also check on the items you have out and renew books before they are due.

Scroll down and on the left side of the Web site you'll find "Library Elf Sign Up." Click on that and you'll be taken to Elf's Web site. You can read more about Elf and sign up for due date warnings and overdue notices.

You will have to provide your name, e-mail address and library card number and password.

One of the best features is that you can choose to get your due date warning the day an item is due, or up to seven days before.

After signing up, I received an almost instant confirmation notice in my e-mail in-box. If you don't see a confirmation notice quickly, Elf recommends checking your spam or junk mail folder.

Anyone who wants to make a donation directly to the Ashland library can visit the Friends of the Ashland Public Library Web site at There's even a printable donation form there where you can mark that your donation is for general needs, or you can specify that it go toward children's programs, books, art, software or anything else you desire.

Rather than owing $15.40 in late fees, I sure wish I had been more careful about turning in my books. Then I could have a warm and fuzzy feeling inside from writing a check to Friends of the Ashland Public Library — instead of feeling like a library scofflaw.

Reach reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-479-8199 or

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