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What Happens if the Library Lost a Book You Returned?

Updated on August 8, 2017

It's frustrating. You returned a library book and then a few weeks later you get an overdue notice. 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 absolutely knew that I had returned a book and 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 100% certain that 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 will allow a certain number of lost books. One librarian told me that you could have up to 10 lost books before it became an issue. Check with your local library to find out what their policy is.

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 book 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 does get lost, you can be 100% certain that you did return it. I knew that I had returned the lost magazine, precisely because I always follow this process. If I hadn't, I wouldn't have been sure who was at fault. You can also explain you're process to the circulation supervisor when attempting to get the lost book removed from your account.

Other Ways to Protect Yourself

If possible, try to find a library that has a very high return slot. Some libraries have slots that are so low, anyone can put in their hand 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. They 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 own them money, so 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. They case was later dismissed after they agreed to pay all fines.

Couple Faces Jail Over Lost Dr. Seuss Library Book


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    • Learn Things Web profile image

      Learn Things Web 4 years ago from California


      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.

    • profile image

      lippydippy 4 years ago

      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!

    • Learn Things Web profile image

      Learn Things Web 7 years ago from California

      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 profile image

      KristenGrace 7 years ago from Philadelphia, PA

      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 profile image

      Victoria Stephens 7 years ago from London

      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