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Library seeks to stem loss of books

January 07, 1998

Library seeks to stem loss of books

By CLYDE FORD

Staff Writer, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Marsha Lance wants the books back. No questions asked.

As the Old Charles Town Library prepares to conduct an inventory of its shelves for the first time in at least a dozen years, the library is holding fine-free days until Jan. 17.

Lance, the librarian at West Virginia's only privately funded public library, said at least 2,000 books a year are believed to disappear from the library.

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The library will shut down from Jan. 26-31 so workers can conduct the inventory and rearrange some of the books, she said.

On Jan. 26, library staff will go to the card catalogs and read off the books listed while others check to make sure the book is actually on the shelf, she said.

For those not on the shelves, a check will be made to see if they are currently on loan or on the overdue list. Books not on the shelves or on the list will be considered missing.

Library officials then have to consider whether or not the book should be replaced, an expensive task for a library that does not receive public funds, Lance said.

About $5,000 to $8,000 worth of books and other materials is lost a year, Lance said

After receiving numerous requests to obtain a cassette tape set for people who want to learn Spanish, the library spent $85 on the tapes, she said. However, the second person to check out the tapes kept them and did not leave a forwarding address, she said.

Childrens Librarian Barbara Tinker said she often discovers that books are gone.

Tinker said a children's program is held at the beginning of each school year about library etiquette and the importance of returning books so others can borrow them. But it's up to parents or guardians to make sure the books are returned, she said.

"You give something to a child, they think it's theirs," Tinker said.

Lance said she believes most people who do not return books simply put them on their shelves and they get mixed up with their other books. Then they're afraid to return them because they are worried about hefty overdue fines.

But Lance said that the Old Charles Town Library only charges a maximum fine of $1.50.

"We're not here to make money. We just want our books back," she said.

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