LETTER SENT TO THE STRAITS TIMES (SINGAPORE), THE NEW PAPER(SINGAPORE) AND TODAY (SINGAPORE) ON 1 OCTOBER 2007
The National Library Board (NLB) in Singapore has implemented a programme to recover more than $5 million in overdue fines from some 800,000 library members.
This has prompted varied reactions from such errants users.
In some cases, the overdue fines relate to books borrowed several years ago.
Plus, some $3.5 million have been written off "for amounts greater than $6 that have been outstanding for more than five years belonging to library members who were not contactable, for foreigners who have left the country and for users who have since died".
The NLB can learn from this and put in place measures to swiftly recover such debts.
Where debts are written off or users fail to pay despite repeated reminders, the NLB should not hesitate to list such users on the databases of credit bureaus. This will affect the credit standing of those live users who seek access to credit facilities and may encourage them to clear their debts with NLB.
Separately, in other cases, "the cost of recovering the money (postage and printing charges) is a lot more than what" is owed by the user. The National Library Board has said that the estimated operating cost of this recovery exercise is "less than 1 per cent of the amount to be recovered".
By not returning the books promptly, these errant users are doing a great disservice to others who equally deserve the benefit of such public services. They are being absolutely selfish by depriving others of the gift of knowledge.
For these reasons, one can perhaps question why the National Library Board should even bear the estimated operating cost of this recovery exercise. In fact, this cost should be charged to and recovered from such users who fail to pay on time, either in the form of a late payment fee or interest charged for late payment of fines.
I welcome the steps taken by NLB to recover the amounts owed by members of the library. I hope it will take up some of my ideas and that the amounts recovered will be used to improve library services in Singapore.
Please consider the environment - do you really need to print this?