Police check out delinquent patron with thousands in fines

Sarah McKenzie

Staff members at Wilson Library have enlisted the help of the University Police in finding a delinquent book borrower — and the individual faces up to $4,024 in late fines.
The borrower, not a University student, checked out 76 books last April with a University student’s identification card and has failed to answer phone calls and letters from the library.
“This is way out of my comfort level,” said Matt Bowers, head of borrowing and privileges for all East Bank libraries. “These are expensive fine-arts books.”
Bowers has not yet pressed charges against the man; he said he tracked the man down through the University student whose card was used. Police have not released the man’s name.
Once or twice a year, a patron abuses his or her privileges and keeps material well beyond the due date, Bowers said, but a case like this is very unusual.
“I hate to have this escalate to using the police,” Bowers said. “But I have to protect the property of the citizens of the state.”
He said it is unlikely that the University will ever see the fines paid.
“I don’t think I will ever see a nickel,” Bower said. “I just want to get those books back.”
Non-University library users are typically allowed to keep the books 13 weeks. They can check out books through the Minneapolis public libraries or by belonging to the University’s Friends of the Library program.
Bowers said police have been very responsive in the past when he asked for their assistance in tracking down book hoarders.
If all other avenues are exhausted to retrieve the library materials, the police will go and knock on the person’s door, he said.
The fee schedule may become more stringent in the future, in part to avert borrowers from taking advantage of the library, Bowers said.
“I think the culture over here is going to have to change,” he said.

In other police news:
ù Someone broke into a student center at Moos Tower on Saturday evening, swiping over $4,000 in computer equipment.
Police have no suspects in the caper at the Council for Health Interdisciplinary Participation.
Among the several items stolen were a laptop computer, digital camera and a pack of Big Red gum.
Robert Zajac, a third-year medical student and volunteer at the center, said the culprit got into the center by shattering a large glass window pane.
“This is very unnerving,” Zajac said. “This will set us back at least a year.”
Despite the losses in technology, Zajac admits it could have been much worse.
Unbeknownst to the thief, the pack of gum was sitting next to the keys for the rest of the computers in the center.
“That could have been another $20,000 in losses,” Zajac said.
Replacing the lost computers and cameras will be difficult, he said.
“It would probably be easier if the University just absorbed the loss, rather than make an insurance claim,” Zajac said.
Besides the loss in equipment, the thief also ran off with information saved on the digital camera and laptop that took hours for students and staff to formulate.
“Some students were working on a new project that involved taking digital images of students walking around in the Academic Health Center,” Zajac said.
The virtual map project was intended to make more students familiar with the center.
If the items are returned, Zajac said he is hopeful that he could identify the criminal by examining data left on the digital camera.
Zajac said he doubts the thief is cognizant of the camera’s capabilities to store memory and information. Therefore, incriminating evidence may be left on the hard drive.