Thirty-nine-year-old Shelly Koontz was arrested for failing to return a copy of the The Freedom Writer’s Diary that she borrowed last April from the Jessup library. The library had tried to reach Koontz through four calls and four letters, one certified, which she refused to accept. Fed up, library officials asked to press charges, leading officers to visit Koontz’s home with three simple options: return the book; pay the library $13.95 so they could buy a new copy; or, go to jail.
“Theft is theft,” said Jesup Police Sgt. Chris Boos, “whether it’s a 50-cent candy bar, a $13 library book or a $200 TV.”
Koontz is free after posting a $250 bond at the Buchanan County Jail. Efforts to reach her by telephone Friday were unsuccessful.
Tom McGlaughlin, president of the Jesup library board, said pursuing criminal charges against a patron for an overdue book is unusual, but the circumstances were also out of the ordinary. He declined to elaborate.
“There is more to this issue than is coming to light at the present time,” McGlaughlin said Friday. “It would be inappropriate to discuss those circumstances.”
Some libraries hand their non-renewing scofflaws over to collection agencies, an option that wasn’t available in Koontz’s case because the book cost less than $25. She will now face fifth-degree theft charges.