The curious case of the 34,000 overdue library books

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Bookworms may be getting a bit too enthralled in literature as figures show there are more than 30,000 overdue library books in the county.

Northamptonshire County Council has revealed there are 22,309 overdue books in the county’s 36 libraries – most of which will not be replaced like for like.

It also revealed there are 12,353 long overdue books, which have been overdue for three months or longer, following a Freedom of Information request.

These include books which are more than five years overdue from libraries in Corby, Kettering, Wellingborough and Rushden.

For one elusive borrower, the book ‘Mind over mood: change how you feel by changing the way you think’ could have racked up a fine of more than £500. But the most the libraries will be able to recoup is £12.60, as this is the maximum fine limit set.

Cabinet member for customer services Cllr Heather Smith said: “Library fines are a fair amount of our income, so we’d encourage people to return their books.

“But our key focus is to try to make sure children are reading from a young age. If a parent borrows a book and doesn’t bring it back, at least the child is hopefully reading it. Is that fair? Probably not.

“We don’t tend to spend an enormous amount of time chasing overdue books unless someone has requested one and I don’t feel it’s justified as we get new stock constantly. I’m hopeful the figures will improve with new systems, such as email prompts we’re bringing in.”

People can renew their books at any library and online.

Earlier this year eight libraries were given a reprieve after being earmarked for potential closure. This month the council approved plans to almost quadruple library volunteers from 457 to 1,600 to save £1m and keep all 36 libraries open.

Tim Maguire, is part of the Friends of Irchester Library group as well as being a local councillor. The library was one of those which had been earmarked for closure.

He said: “The number of overdue books is shocking. If all those people brought back their books and paid their fine, it would almost save Irchester library.

“In any other organisation, if you didn’t pay your bill, you’d have baliffs round.”

A council spokesman said: “New books are being bought continually as the stock is constantly changing to reflect the needs of the public, however unless specifically requested by another borrower, we do not usually replace missing books that have not been returned.”