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Archive for Friday, August 13, 1993

EM BOOKS, JUDGE RULES IN CASE OF LOST LIBRARY CARD

August 13, 1993

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Someone with a taste for New Age literature rang up $1,050-worth of books on a Free State Brewery cook's library card, and now the cook must pay.

District Judge James W. Paddock has ordered Steve Wilbur to reimburse the Lawrence Public Library for 39 books checked out on his card without his permission or knowledge.

The decision means losing a library card is like losing a signed, blank check, Wilbur's defense attorney said today.

Wilbur said the library might have to garnish his wages because he had no idea how he would pay.

"I have two kids," he said. "There's really no way I can prepare for this.

"You might check where your library card is."

Wilbur's $1,000 error was losing track of his card sometime before Dec. 1. In a period spanning 23 days, someone checked out books such as "New World New Mind," "Alchemy: Science of the Cosmos, Science of the Soul," "Sexual Fitness" and 36 others.

Wilbur found out about the materials three months later, two months after they became overdue, records state. Now he must pay.

Whether Wilbur checked out the books was not an issue at the hearing last month. He testified that he didn't.

The issue became whether he was liable for an unauthorized use of his card.

Wilbur wondered whether the library planned to check identification now, preventing others from facing the same woe.

Wayne Mayo, library director, said library clerks do not check identification other than the library card when checking out books.

"It's just like if you go into a store with a credit card. Do they check your driver's license?" he said.

The city cut a budget request for computerizing the library, Mayo said.

"We don't have any plans to change our system," he said.

Mayo's reference to a credit card mirrored defense attorney Ben Casad's legal argument.

Casad argued that library cards could be compared to credit cards. State statutes limit liability for unauthorized purchases on credit cards to $50, he said.

"I compare it at this point to a signed blank check," Casad said after Paddock's ruling. "The standard for liability is higher than that of a credit card."

The library's attorneys argued that the library "does not sell or provide any materials on credit," the brief states. Daniel Yoe, who represented the library, was unavailable for comment today.

The judge said the statute regulating credit cards did not apply to a library card.

Paddock cited a document submitted by library officials as the library card application.

The application states, "I accept responsibility for all materials borrowed on my library card as well as for all fines and reinstatement charges which may accrue against me."

Although the library was unable to furnish such a document with Wilbur's signature, Paddock states in the memorandum decision filed today that he is convinced Wilbur signed such an agreement.

Casad said his client does not plan an appeal.

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