Frugal Tip for Replacing Lost Library Books
Maybe it's because I've worked in libraries since I was 16, or maybe it's because I've lost a few myself, but I'm convinced that every serious library patron will lose at least one book. Or CD, or DVD.
The minimum charge I've seen for a lost item is $3.99 (kids paperback) and the maximum was something like $40. In all the counties/libraries where I've worked, the price has been based on the replacement cost of the item. At face value, then, it would seem that paying the fee would be the best thing to do.
But actually, libraries are limited in how we can replace books. Most of the time, we're required to buy from the specific vendor(s) with whom the county or independent library has a contract. We can't just go on Amazon and find the best replacement copy. But you can.
On the few occasions that I've lost an item, I've never had to pay for it. Instead, I've provided the library with a replacement copy. In one case, I replaced a $25.00 book for $12.00. In another, I replaced a $15.00 CD for $7.00.
There are two critical elements in properly replacing an item. First, ask before you buy. Check with the circulation supervisor to see if they take exchanges. It's important to know whether it'll be accepted and if the person you bring the book back to doesn't want to take it, you can quote the supervisor. Then it should be the library's problem and not yours.
Second, buy a quality item. It doesn't matter if the book you lost had water damage or was old and used. Buying quality increases your chances of getting the item accepted. It doesn't have to be new, but something that's only gently used or "like new" should do the trick. No writing.
Of course, when the fee is less than it would cost you to replace the item, you're best off just paying it. When you do, check with your library to see if there is any way you can keep the receipt and bring the book back if you find it. A common return policy is receipt & book within 1 year and you're refunded everything but the maximum late fine for that item.
A special note for CDs and DVDs: if you have the case, consider simply putting a new disc in. As long as it's the same movie and the library hasn't done anything special to the disc, they won't care. They would probably be grateful to avoid the hassle---I know I am! Most libraries don't do much to CDs and DVDs anymore because special sensors & plastic covers have been known to melt in DVD players.
Again, always check with the circulation supervisor before buying anything. Your library's policies may vary or they may have some specifics that will make an item a qualified replacement.
Patronizing libraries is an incredibly frugal way to get all your reading in. Your tax dollars are paying for it already, so you might as well put it to good use. And if you ever do misplace an item, offer to replace it and save yourself and the library some money & trouble!