Confessions of a Library Fugitive

Photo: CCAC North Library

I am wanted by the library.

I have three kids. And I want to do right by them, you know? Which, apparently, according to all the “experts” like “teachers” and “social services” means schlepping them to the library regularly.

Let’s call my oldest The Solicitor because he can talk the hind legs off a mule. Not that we have a mule. I guess he’ll have to talk the hind legs off his brother. He loves his cell phone, My Life is Average, and his mom. In that order. Actually, he’d probably put a lot of things between MLIA and his mom. He also loves to read, always has, which has led to the trouble.

My middle, my only girl, is also a reader. We call her the Pink Goth because when she was little, she’d dress head to toe in fluffy pink. Then she’d give every stranger on the street the nastiest, drop-dead looks if they so much as smiled at her. We’re talking looks that could incinerate, with her head down, glaring up at them through her eyebrows. We later figured out the Pink Goth was shy and walking around looking like she wanted to skin your cat was her way of protecting herself. At least that’s what we tell ourselves. Ask us in 7 years when the neighborhood cats start disappearing.

And the little guy? He is a boundless stream of energy. He climbs on things he really shouldn’t. Like lamps. Or the vacuum cleaner. He’s all boy. Let’s call him Turbo.

He’s too busy breaking things to do anything so quiet as reading. But there is an exception. He’ll read anything about dinosaurs. He loves dinosaurs. He knows their Latin names, their habits, favorite TV shows, and profiles. He will read, no, he NEEDS to read each and every book on the face of the earth about dinosaurs. Especially the ones with pictures of bloody teeth chomping through shredded flesh.

Seriously. I have nightmares.

So being the diligent and responsible mom I am, I pack them up and take them to the library. The Solicitor gets his Percy Jackson. Pink Goth gets her book about flying cats. And Turbo picks up 17 books about dinosaurs. And there, at the checkout, is where the National Guard moves in to take me down.

You see, I’m really good at getting books from the library. Not so good at returning them.

It all started when we moved. I don’t know about you, but no matter how organized I am at the gate, my final days of moving consist of grabbing big piles of stuff and frantically shoving them in boxes. I have never moved without moving a few bags of trash that I just crammed into a box.

When we moved, I jammed a stack of library paraphernalia in a box, labeled the box “MISC,” and forgot where it was. That box is probably still packed in the basement, three moves later. In the box, apparently, were books, but also DVDs.

DVDs in the District of Columbia have a late fee of $1 day.

When I went back to make peace with the library, I had a small matter of a bill.

500 dollars. Yep. You read that right. I had a FIVE. HUNDRED. DOLLAR. library fine.

Go me.

I know that there are moms out there who have never had an overdue book, much less spectacularly overdue. Their kids eat vegetables joyfully. They vacuum behind the refrigerator and bake carob cupcakes for class snacks.

This blog post is not for you. Go away and dust or something.

I can’t be the only library fugitive out there. There have to be bloggers for the rest of us. The ones who try and fail and find joy in our kids nonetheless. The less-than-perfects, the ones that make the other moms look good. We can pull this off. We can do it. Si, se puede.

About Rebecca Cusey

Rebecca is a lead critic and editor of entertainment at Patheos. Follow her on Twitter @Rebecca_Cusey

  • carla

    Well I have never had a $500 fine at once. But when I lived in a big city and there fines were CRAZY and never had a cap on them . I would have $25 every time I went and it was pretty often . So I am sure I have totaled way more then that in my parenting days. Now Our library has a cap on books and videos Thank goodness but I will still have $8 allot of times. I just happily pay it and know I would have paid a bigger late fee for movies at the video store. and would have not gotten anything out of it, I at least now am funding new books for us to check out : ) Yep this is what I tell myself. I actually one time told the childrens librarian ” I have paid enough in late fees this month we want the new fancy nancy book, I have paid enough for you to buy it .” You should be able to just pay for the items cheaper to replace then pay the late fee. I say that but once I apparently lost of ate a dora dvd and I said I would just put it and it was like $25. I laughed and said I will go to walmart and buy it for $5 and bring it in , and they said they had to have the library case. after prodding I got out of them you can buy library cases for $2 ummmm ya…. I will do that . :)

    • Rebecca Cusey

      I love that you know, and have worked, the system. Great job!

  • doppelganglander

    I paid so many library fines, I used to joke that they should name a branch after me. When my daughter was in high school, she got a job at the library and acted as my fixer, saving me quite a bit. Now that the kids are grown, I just buy books for the most part. I love my Kindle.

    • Rebecca Cusey

      Excellent! You infiltrated the library!

  • Beka LeMaster

    I, too, have basically purchased a library branch with my late fees. We currently have an $85 fee (no books were lost, just REALLY late!). What makes it worse is that it is on my daughter’s (she’s 8) library card. We used her card, because there was, what I thought of at the time, a large fee on my card. Glad I’m not the only one out there who does this!

    • Beka LeMaster

      That’s supposed to say she is 8, not 8)

    • Rebecca Cusey

      Smart move. What can they do to a minor? Don’t they WANT kids to read?

  • Daja

    Our library has one month a year where you can request fine forgiveness. A lovely little amnesty month. You should call your library (and not identify yourself as the mom with the $500 fine) and ask if they have such a thing.

    I’ve never had quite that big a fine, but we were missing a book for a good long while. I moved the furniture, cleaned out the mini-van, checked the church’s lost and found. The book had ceased to exist. Every time I went to the library I checked the shelves, just sure there must have been an error in the librarian’s world. Finally, one day I decided to show the kids a map, so I drug out the atlas. Lo and behold–there was the book–Gentle Giant Octopus–tucked neatly inside the giant atlas pages. One of my unschooling kids, apparently, took their research a bit too far.

    Had to eat some humble pie with the librarian and return the book–only about six months late.

    • Rebecca Cusey

      To be fair, the library and I did negotiate a settlement well below $500. That’s funny about finding the book inside another book. That’s never happened to me, but I did find my son’s Social Security card behind the dryer when we moved!

  • Kathy Tuan-Maclean

    I regularly donate charitably to the library, er, I mean pay fines–I figure it’s all going for a good cause. I’ve also paid for lost books ($40 for a kids’ paperback??) then found them buried in a kid’s closet 8 months later–to return the book and get your $ back, you have to keep the receipt from when you paid for it. Sheesh!

    • Rebecca Cusey

      Worse than The Gap!

  • Jackie F.

    “Go away and dust or something”… LOLOLOL!!!!!!!! That’s how I feel about a few people I know, not matter how much I love them and envy the level of organization they have acheived.

  • Alison Hodgson

    Never had one $500 charge, but collectively I’ve exceeded it. I consider myself a patron. I don’t usually have books out a terribly long time, but even a few days, when you have 40+ books, adds up.

    We had a house fire last year and in the aftermath moved three times, before finally returning home. A good chunk of our settlement went to the library, I swear. The library sciences, like nursing, seem to attract the saints and the utter turds of the population. Regrettably I was almost always dealing with the latter when I paid fines and changed our address AGAIN and AGAIN and AGAIN.