By Ivan Pereira
Since 1995, the library has worked with Unique Management Services, an Indiana-based material-recovery service that serves more than 900 libraries across North America, to retain overdue books, movies, music and other materials. If the cardholder does not return their material after about five months past the expiration date, the company will report them to a credit agency.”Library owners have to know that the cost of the material is the cost of the book times the number of people who use them. A lot of these books are out of print and irreplaceable and they're meant for everyone in Queens,” said Queens library spokeswoman Joanne King.Some library members think making late fees a permanent fixture on their financial history is simply going too far.”It's like being watched for everything you do. Forgetting to return a book shouldn't affect people's credit,” said Yung, a 17-year-old Douglaston resident, who did not want to give his last name. Other library borrowers felt the method was fair because too many times the library does not have the material they need.”The book is their property and you're expected to return it on time. They tell you when it's due so there's no reason for you to forget,” said Cheung, 17, of Bay Terrace.The process begins with a letter sent to the cardholder after the time limit for the loaned item expires. The “gentle nudge” letter is the standard and most of the time the patron returns the material, according to Kenes Bowling, the manager of customer development for Unique Management.”We tell the patron that the library has asked us to contact them to return the material and pay the fee,” he said.If the cardholder does not return the material after three weeks, Unique sends another letter warning that a report could be sent to the credit rating agencies if the borrower does not return the material and pay the fee or pay the library for its replacement. Unique then continues to send out messages to the borrower through the mail and phone several times over the next 120 days, warning about the imminent credit report.The service has worked well for the library, according to King, as it has recovered nearly $11.4 million in returned material and cash over the last 12 years.”There are over 10 contacts made to the library cardholder requesting the material back,” she said. “Certainly the last three or four explain that if they don't give any sort of response, they will be credit reported, so they are given ample warning.”Cardholders like Hin Yu, 25, of Bayside agreed. “As long as they warn you, and there's ample notification, then it's fine,” he said. “They do what they have to do. It's a free resource for everybody.”Bowling reassured that the cardholder's credit score would not be affected if he repaid his fees after they were reported.”All the person needs to do is pay the fee and settle the account and it's no longer a problem. [The credit report] shows as a paid account,” he said.Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.