Boy Steals Books, Librarian Changes Boy's Life

In my quest to have a designated theme for every day of the week, maybe I should start a “Sappy Sunday” one if I keep finding touching articles like this one?  Man, every librarian should have a story like this. 

My best attempt so far was a failure – in my last job, I found out about a teen patron who'd been caught using the library phone to dial 1-900 numbers which charged back about fifty bucks to that line from the online game, Runescape.  We suspended him for the summer but after handing down the suspension, I was feeling guilty about taking away the library privileges of a youngster, especially in the summer months and because he's protested so strongly that there was no way he could afford fifty bucks.  So a few weeks later, I asked for and received permission from my Director to offer him a deal to have his suspension lifted if he would pay a portion of the fine, write a letter of apology to the local library board and pay off the rest by doing a few hours of volunteer work at the library. 

I called his house to give him what I thought was the good news.  “Oh, I paid off the fine already.  I wanted to keep playing the game.  But don't worry – I won't charge anything back the library anymore.  Promise!”  

Comments 6

  1. Anonymous wrote:

    'K, now I feel better that it has happened at RPL, too. We're getting in trouble for the exact same thing (a 1-900 number for Runescape), only we don't know who's been making the calls so there's nobody to pay the $90 they've racked up. Rather than being nice like you, we've had to change our whole policy on who can use the phone, the info desk staff have to dial every number themselves, etc.
    How did you discover who did it?
    Frankly, I think it's criminal that a call under 30 seconds can cost $10.99 and that it's necessary as a part of a game that mostly kids play.
    But kudos for at least trying to keep a library patron who otherwise might've walked away forever if the fines became prohibitive. It's how a lot of libraries lose teens, I think.

    Posted 09 Nov 2009 at 3:39 pm
  2. Anonymous wrote:

    This was actually at Southeast which is why it was easy to discover – there aren't a lot of kids playing Runescape when the whole town population is 500 people! (Even then, I can't remember if the librarian confronted the kid or a friend ratted him out to save their own skin or how it went down.)
    And even then, we went down the policy change path – I think making a similar rule that librarians could only dial the phone and stuff like that.
    I agree that the issue here really is with why phone companies will allow a line to be charged back to. Just because you have access to a phone line, doesn't mean you're authorized to charge mega-bucks to it! (How often does this happen at a friend's house or at the local convenience store or anywhere that a kid can ask to borrow the phone?)

    Posted 10 Nov 2009 at 3:03 pm
  3. Anonymous wrote:

    And, our phone system is not supposed to allow any long distance calls. This was a 1-900 number … if it was a pay-per call, it should have been blocked. Only managers can call 1 + an area code, with a code they have to enter.
    Which tells me that there's something about this number which makes it easy for kids to call from any phone, whether they realize the cost or not.

    Posted 11 Nov 2009 at 1:37 am
  4. Anonymous wrote:

    I'd come across this story a while back as well. I thought it was nice.
    SPL had a situation a few years ago with kids hogging every available computer for some internet based game. It took ages before staff could get assistance from IT to limit the functionality of some of our machines, though. It had gotten to a point where there was never a machine free to look up books, let alone anything else. It was ridiculous.

    Posted 13 Nov 2009 at 12:34 pm
  5. Anonymous wrote:

    Yep, I think the fault lies with the phone company as much as anyone (including the kids making the calls – there will always be those who take advantage of opportunities that present themselves.)
    I can't remember now if SaskTel told me something similar – they could block long distance calls but for some reason, couldn't block the 1-900 numbers? It was a weird situation though where nothing seemed to work how it should work.

    Posted 14 Nov 2009 at 7:20 pm
  6. Anonymous wrote:

    I'm not sure about a few years ago but RPL now has a reservation system in place on most (but not all) of our public computers where patrons are limited to an hour per day and need to enter their library card number to get even that much time.
    Southeast didn't have software to enforce things but had a similar time limit policy. They just used sign-in sheets at the desk so when it was busy, they could enforce the one hour time limit (or was it half an hour?) and when it wasn't, librarians could let patrons stay on for longer at their discretion.

    Posted 14 Nov 2009 at 7:24 pm
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