LIBRARIES - LOSS OF MATERIALS. Letter, November 6, 1973, to Richard J. Neuman, Librarian, Salina Public Library, Salina, Kansas.

Dear Mr. Neuman:

Mr. Charles Sims, State Librarian, has forwarded to us your letter on October 5, requesting an opinion concerning the rights of a library patron who pays the cost of books which he has damaged, e.g., $15.00, and who refused to return them on the ground that he has paid for them, and they are thus his.

The precise question does not appear to have been decided in any reported judicial opinion we have been able to discover. However, in terms of library service and patron relations, the pragmatic approach to this problem is equally as important as the abstract legal rights and duties of the library and its patrons. The patron should be made to understand that the amount which he pays is for damage to library property, and not the cost of either the purchase (by him) or replacement (by the library). In many instances, the patron should be advised, a particular damaged book may be difficult to replace, for various reasons, and the cost of repairing a damaged book. The patron's mistaken belief that payment of damages entitles him to title to the damaged property may stem, in part, from the policy of retail stores which require a shopper who damages an item of merchandise to purchase the item. The library, on the contrary, is not in the business of selling books, but of maintaining and preserving its collection, for continued service to the community. Money which a patron pays for damage to property of the library is precisely that, compensation for damage to library property, and not payment for the purchase of that property, unless the library so agrees in a given instance.

- Quoted from Kansas Public Library Laws, Attorney General’s Opinions and Rules and Regulations, State Library of Kansas, March 1979.


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