I'm a big reader, but I'm also in my 20s and Barnes and Noble is expensive. So, I frequent the library pretty often and go dizzy with glee when I happen upon a sidewalk paperback sale. I also tend to over-borrow, walking out with five novels when I know I still have two unfinished ones at home, and get busy sometimes! My overdue fee at my local library hovers steadily around the $2 to $5 range -- which is more irresponsible than it sounds at 10 cents a day -- but I'm always confident in the fact that I know I'm going to return the books and pay up on my next trip.
Well, this story might just whip me into shape: A Michigan mom of five, Melinda Sanders Jones, is facing potential jail time over late library books. Like, in a cell. What?!
According to TODAY, Sanders Jones didn't even know about the possibility until she tried to apply for a new position at her place of work. The ensuing background check didn't exactly come back clean.
"I told them I was super confident in my background check because I've never even had a parking ticket...then I get a call from my boss to inform me that I actually have a warrant out for my arrest and it's for failure to return rental property less than $200," she said. Sanders Jones was denied the promotion and suspended from her job altogether.
The books in question, "Where the Sidewalk Ends" by Shel Silverstein and "Night" by Elie Wiesel (both read-worthy choices, by the way), had apparently been forgotten on the family's bookshelf for a couple weeks too many, but were returned as soon as the mistake was discovered. When a late fee failed to turn up, Sanders Jones said she forgot all about it. An honest woman, to be sure!
Nevertheless, she's been around the block of trying to clear these criminal charges (yes, criminal). After court dates, a hired attorney and "diversion fees" (anyone? anyone?), Sanders Jones is just hoping that it all goes away.
"Mainly I just want to get my job back. I just want to go back to work. I have five kids and I am the head of my household and I'm the only one that works," she said. "I want the charges dismissed, because the only way I'm going to get my job back is if I get my name cleared. This can't be on my record."
I mean, of course! Since when can you face jail time for being a busy mom who likes reading to her kids? To their (dis)credit, the library in question made a statement apologizing for the incident, claiming they'll be reviewing all processes relating to overdue books going forward. OK, Karens.
What's next? Citizens arrests for chewing too loud in your cubicle? A prison sentence for ordering a way-too-complicated latte at Starbucks? Hundreds of dollars in fines for parking right next to another car when the entire lot is open?! Actually...
"This is not OK. There's got to be more that you can do with resources like this than arrest people for library books," Sanders Jones said.
I'm with her -- doesn't the Eaton County Prosecuting Attorney's Office have anything better to do?