Libraries owed £40,000 in fines for missing books

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THOUSANDS of books have been lost from Hampshire libraries and more than £40,000 worth of fines have not been paid.

In 2010, 5,114 books disappeared from 15 libraries in the south of the county.

Figures uncovered by The News show that the missing items cost Hampshire County Council £34,867 to buy in the first place. And in the same period there are 13,690 fines, which have been issued by the library service, that have not been paid and amount to a staggering £40,907.

Library chief Cllr Keith Chapman said: ‘It’s a difficult situation. Years ago the county council used to do what Portsmouth City Council did and knock on people’s doors to get the books back, but that wasn’t a nice approach. We are working on trying to resolve the issue. People don’t bring books back because they are embarrassed to pay fines. At the moment we send people letters to let them know items are overdue.’

Currently if people have overdue items, they can still borrow more material – and this is something Cllr Chapman would like to change. He added: ‘We are thinking that we won’t issue books to people who have outstanding fines.’

The figures – released under the Freedom of Information Act – were described as ‘unacceptable’ by Cllr Peter Chegwyn, shadow cabinet member for libraries, adding: ‘There are a lot of cuts being made and if we don’t stop books from going missing then there will be none left.’

The News previously revealed that Portsmouth City Council was owed £40,000 in lost fines for 21,000 missing library items.