Have an overdue book or an unpaid library fee?
You might be hearing from a collections agency.
Beaufort County's library system is owed more than $100,000 in outstanding fees, fines and unreturned materials. At a meeting today, the library board of trustees will discuss whether to hire a collections agency to tackle the problem.
Library director Wlodek Zaryczny said the county isn't interested in using "strong-arm" tactics on residents.
Instead, the idea is to nudge patrons and remind them about their unpaid fines or those overdue books they forgot and left in closets or trunks.
To do so, the agency might send a letter to the resident, and it might follow up with a phone call after a few weeks, Zaryczny said.
Some procedures are currently in place to track down fees, fines and materials. Staff send overdue notices. Patrons with high outstanding balances are barred from checking out more materials or using library computers until they pay.
But board chairwoman Theresa Dunn said a collections firm with a strong track record might have better luck turning those owed fees into cash.
"When you have over $100,000 owed to you, I would say that you're not having success in getting people to pay some fines," she said.
In addition, a hiring freeze and attrition have reduced library staff by about 30 percent over the past several years. Zaryczny said collections eat up staff time that would be better spent elsewhere.
"By having a collections agency, that would also relieve our staff from this arduous task, and then they can get more involved with direct service to our customers," he said.
Dunn said the idea has been discussed previously, and she expects the board to vote on the issue during at the 3 p.m. meeting.
Zaryczny said the board's vote will be on the concept of hiring an outside collections agency, but he said no contract is in the works yet.
Follow reporter Kyle Peterson at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufortCo.