San Francisco Lost-Book Charge Controversy

The following news release was issued on December 7th by the Library Users Association of San Francisco, California:

S.F.’s Library Commission Delays Endorsement of Legislation Legalizing $200 Lost-book Charge After Vigorous Opposition by Library User Advocates

Following vigorous opposition by library user advocates, San Francisco’s Public Library Commission yesterday postponed a decision on whether to forward legislation to the Board of Supervisors that included authorization of a charge of up to $200 for each lost or damaged book borrowed by patrons from other libraries through the Library’s new LINK+ system.

The Commission did not vote on the matter. Instead, Commission President Charles Higueras said he would place the matter on the next meeting agenda, January 17, 2008. City Librarian Luis Herrara said he preferred passage immediately, but did not have a problem with postponement of action.

Library Users Association Executive Director Peter Warfield said that the charges should not be approved because they are excessive, inconsistent with other library fees that are much lower, and violate American Library Association ethical guidelines on barriers to access and service to poor people.

Higueras questioned the library’s technology head, Vivian Pisano, as to whether patrons are informed about the existing $115 charge for lost materials when they request materials through LINK+ (pronounced “Link Plus”). After he repeated the question several times, Pisano replied, “No.”

Additional Commission discussion focused on how and whether patrons have been informed of all charges for lost materials, including a newly-specified charge of $30 for lost sheet music. Library administrators acknowledged many of the charges have been in effect for some time despite lack of the legally-required legislation, although they said no one had lost material borrowed through LINK+ since inception about a year ago.

Warfield also noted that the LINK+ software is being heavily sold to library users without full disclosure that traditional inter-library loan (ILL) service provides a much larger universe of available books. He said a lookup for works by one author found two titles at SFPL, 11 at LINK+, and 95 in WorldCat, a database that generally represents what is available through traditional ILL requests.

Contact information for the Library Users Association:

P.O. Box 170544
San Francisco CA 94117-0544
Phone/Fax (415) 753-2180