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Are you a library scofflaw?

  • Article by: LAURIE BLAKE
  • Star Tribune
  • July 4, 2012 - 8:33 PM

Your library card status may soon follow you like your credit history.

Washington and Dakota county libraries are pursuing a $47,000 federal grant to try out a library card verification system that would tell them instantly if someone from the neighboring county is a good bet as a book borrower.

People increasingly use libraries where they work or visit, not just where they live, and a computer link between library patron accounts would stop people from ducking fines for overdue materials at their home libraries and skipping to another county to get books.

As it is now, "I could be in bad standing in Dakota County and take my card to a desk at another library in the state and they would not have access to my status in Dakota County," said Dakota County Library Director Ken Behringer. "I could go from library to library causing all manner of problems."

Libraries control miscreants in their home systems by cutting off checkouts until people return materials and pay fines.

But libraries in the metro area and across the state have a long history of sharing materials back and forth, and "right now we don't have a good way of checking on customer information from another library," said Joyce Schneider, deputy director of the Washington County Library. Libraries are supported by county taxpayers and "as materials become more expensive, we have an obligation to make sure we are checking out materials to individuals who are in good standing," she said.

Although the book bandit scenario does not happen often, it does happen, Schneider said.

A second benefit of the connection would be to make registration across county lines quicker. The name, address, phone number and e-mail of the patron could be drawn automatically from his or her home library for registration in the neighboring county, Schneider said. That would make it simple for e-book readers to request e-books from the other county without ever having to go to a library.

Washington County partnered with Dakota to pursue the grant because the two share a border and do a lot of reciprocal borrowing.

The grant request has been filed through the Minnesota Department of Education State Library Agency. A decision is expected the week of July 29. If approved and the system is installed, Schneider anticipates it could be in place by October.

She would expect librarians to use the information initially when a person registers a card for cross-county borrowing. To someone with unpaid fines or overdue materials in Dakota County, "I would say it looks like you have some outstanding materials that were overdue. You really need to take care of that charge before we would be able to continue the registration process,'' Schneider said.

Laurie Blake • 952-746-3287

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