COPPERAS COVE — City Council members Tuesday unanimously approved a motion to reword an ordinance that caused 22-year-old Jory Enck to spend a night in jail last fall because of an unreturned book and subsequent fines.
The original ordinance stated it is unlawful for a person who has borrowed library material to not return them after 20 days after receiving the first written notice demanding the return.
A subsequent warrant is put out for the patron’s arrest and each outstanding fines acts as a separate charge carrying fines up to $200.
“We’ve found the returns we get back from the ordinance are very small compared to the workload it generates,” said Kevin Marsh, recently appointed library director.
The ordinance, which has been in effect since 2002, was variably enforced before Marsh’s appointment as library director in January, he said.
Some library assistants enforced it only during certain times in the year, some after patrons’ fines exceeded $100 and others for every single case to which the ordinance applied.
The warrants, however, were not actively enforced unless a violator was arrested on another charge.
“We have cases where someone was arrested for as little as $30,” said Marsh, explaining that the original reason the ordinance was put in place was to avoid a misdemeanor theft charge previously incurred in similar overdue book cases.
After Enck’s highly publicized arrest in October, Marsh said library patrons became wary of checking out books and somewhat confused on what overdue book situations constituted arrest warrants.
“It does create a lot of paperwork,” said Mayor John Hull, referring to the ordinance’s reporting process.
Public library book hoarders and forgetful book-borrowers will now only have collection agencies come after their late fines, after 20 days and a written notice.