Library will call in collection agency

Library will call in collection agency

Liana Viveiros, a worker at the North Providence Union Free Public Library, checks in books at the front desk last Friday. According to Librarian Mary Ellen Hardiman, the library will hire an outside collection agency this fall to pursue long overdue materials and fines from patrons. (Breeze photo by Ethan Shorey)

NORTH PROVIDENCE - Officials from the North Providence Union Free Public Library have finally decided to hire a collection agency.

Librarian Mary Ellen Hardiman told The Breeze that the Unique Management Services Library Division will bring a comprehensive collection system to help improve the library's financial standing and make a wider variety of resources available to residents.

The Breeze reported in January that Hardiman and her team were considering the idea of signing on with the Unique Management Services, a company already used by six other Rhode Island communities to get back overdue items.

Hardiman said she expects to hire Unique Management Services by October. One of the reasons library staff like the company is that it seems to have the most experience, said Hardiman and is known for being sensitive when dealing with people.

"We like them because they're not really heavy-handed," she said.

According to Hardiman, one of the stumbling blocks to bringing in the collection agency has been that the library's computers weren't able to handle the system the company would implement, but she said enough upgrades have now been made to allow it to happen.

When library staff first indicated last winter that they were considering hiring a collection agency, they said they were dealing with scores of patrons who were not returning library materials despite numerous reminders and fines.

Not much has improved in the eight months since, according to Hardiman, reassuring those in charge that hiring a collection agency is the right way to go. Many people still owe substantially more than the $25 minimum overdue fee needed to kick the matter up to the collection agency.

"I guess some people figure their tax dollars pay for it," said Hardiman.

According to the Unique Management website, the company's collection process includes a 120-day series of letters, calls, skip tracing, and credit reporting designed just for libraries.

Unlike traditional collection agencies, a library material recovery system is designed to track and report materials returned, as well as cash received.

Representatives for Unique Management Services guarantee that the company will help any library client collect enough money to pay for its service.

The hiring of a collection agency is one of many changes planned this year at the North Providence Library, which is undergoing a series of upgrades to its facility.

A new room with a projector and comfortable seating has already been completed, offering a space more conducive to watching movies. A new community room for outside groups, a new and improved computer area, an expanded young adult space in the old magazine area, and magazine lounge in the current adult computer area are all among the changes being made.

Hardiman expects most of the improvements to be completed by October. Grants from the Champlin Foundations of $44,000 and $40,000 are paying for most of the upgrades.

A new entryway with reading area and two new self-checkout machines were added earlier this year. A statewide $300,000 Champlin grant is also paying for new audio books and e-books at libraries across the state.

For more on the services at the library, visit www.nplib.com .