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What to Do If the Library Loses a Book You Returned

It's frustrating. You returned a library book, and then you get an overdue notice a few weeks later. If you don't do something, you could start facing fines. If you check out a lot of library books, you should be concerned about the possibility of the library losing or misplacing returned books before they're checked in. Libraries can and do misplace books without checking them in. Some of these books may be quite expensive, so you don't want to be responsible for paying for something you returned.

I have had this happen a few times. The first time I told the librarian I was fairly certain I had returned the book. She checked the shelves and found it. The next time I knew that I had returned a book, they again found it. Another time I returned a magazine, and it was never found. Library books are regularly misplaced and lost after they're returned. What can you do if the library loses a book that you returned?

If a Book is Lost

If a book is lost and you know you returned it, talk to the circulation supervisor and explain that you're one hundred percent certain the book was returned. A good supervisor will remove the book from your account. However, the fact that this occurred will be on your library record. So, if it happens again, they may be more skeptical. Many libraries allow a certain number of lost books. One librarian told me they allow up to 10 lost books before it became an issue. Check with your local library to find out what their policy is.

Here's what to do if a library loses a book you returned

Here's what to do if a library loses a book you returned

Make Use of Your Library Receipt

If your library provides printouts of checked-out books, hold onto them. When you're ready to return the books, put one at a time into a bag and then cross it off the receipt. Once you've crossed off all books, immediately take the bag and put it into your car. If you're not going by car, put the books somewhere children can't get to them until you're ready to walk out the door. Count the number of books on your receipt and count each one as you put it into the return slot.

This may sound like a lot of work, but if a book gets lost, you will know with certainty that you returned it. I knew that I had returned the lost magazine precisely because I always followed this process. I wouldn't have been sure who was at fault if I hadn't. You can explain your process to the circulation supervisor when attempting to remove the lost book from your account.

Other Ways to Protect Yourself

If possible, try to find a library that has a high return slot. Some libraries have slots that are so low that anyone can reach in and grab a book. Because the books haven't been checked in yet, they won't set off any detectors if stolen. Someone can steal a book and leave you with the trouble of resolving the loss with the library.

Be careful using after-hours book return bins outside a library. Some can be very easy to reach into. You can also go directly to a librarian and have them check in each book while you watch. However, if you have children and are checking out a large number of books at one time, they may not be too happy about it.

A library can report you to a collection agency if you owe money, so this isn't a trivial matter. You have to be very careful to ensure all books are returned. And in this unusual case, a couple faced the possibility of jail time for losing a library book. The case was later dismissed after they agreed to pay all fines.

Couple Faces Jail Over Lost Dr. Seuss Library Book

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

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© 2011 LT Wright


LT Wright (author) from California on June 27, 2013:


It's lucky they found those books. Since it's happened a couple of times, it might be better to just return all books directly to a librarian.

lippydippy on June 25, 2013:

This happened to me twice now. Once they lost a bunch of stuff worth over 200 bucks but luckily they finally found it like 2 months later! Just happened again and they are still looking for it. Can you imagine government workers in charge of our healthcare when they can't even manage to keep track of a library book? This is very scary!

LT Wright (author) from California on March 06, 2011:

I have a relative who is a retired librarian and she said that disputes actually happened quite a lot where she worked. You would think they would be very careful about checking books in. But obviously a lot of mistakes occur.

KristenGrace from Philadelphia, PA on March 06, 2011:

Interesting. I remember this happening to me while I was in school, and of course no one believed I returned it because I was the kid... As an adult, hasn't happened yet.

Victoria Stephens from London on March 06, 2011:

You wouldn't expect a Library to lose books because it is their specific job to take care of them, but it does happen so it's good to keep a receipt if you can.x

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