This is why we can't have nice things
Libraries are totally into lending resources. Lets face it, accessibility to resources is pretty core to the mission of libraries. These days libraries are the only regular internet access a significant percentage of the population has while there is an ongoing transferal to internet as the primary access point. We know that while most of our user base will treat our resources, while not exactly with care or respect, with the knowledge we offer resources so that many people can access them (overdue fines and billing add incentive for returning items if patrons want to continue borrowing from us).
The problem comes that not everyone cares. Sometimes a blocked card is worth it for whatever reason, and this really puts a cramp in the fun. And in this case I'm not talking about accidently dropping it in the bathtub, or letting your toddler with the peanut butter and jelly sandwich near a book, or even something that falls under the couch and is lost for years. That happens, we get it, and generally the people this happens to try to make good by replacing an item or addressing the fines. Sometimes patrons argue about it (and sadly "my cousin used my card" does not excuse you from the responsibility of the items, which is why we are so obnoxious in insisting that you use your own card and won't look up your card number without ID), sometimes there was a legitimate error on our end and we clear up their record, stuff happens. Here's a secret: really we just want the item back, if you've been billed for an item and still have it, returning the item may literally "fit the bill (disclaimer: I am in no way talking about every library or about that item that you found under your bed from 10 years ago). What I'm more particularly annoyed about is when people deliberately steal from the library.
Interestingly the reasons people steal don't always stem from a desire for the item. Certain titles and subjects have an uncanny tendency to go missing from the shelves. At my library books dealing with child abuse (such as A Child Called It), any book dealing with teen sexuality/pregnancy/drug use, and witchcraft come most immediately to mind. I do realize the irony that books on witchcraft disappearing on us. Whether checked out on a library card and never returned, or simply stolen in a more traditional manner, theft is often exercised by individuals as a form of censorship. After all, if it is not on the shelves it cannot circulate.
In this case my frustration stems from a device that likely went missing because of its value. We circulate more than books, movies, and music. We have video games, board games, puppets, e-readers, and most recently, two shiny new Nexus 7 tablets (in news for fun items circulating, check out the musical instruments available at the Forbes Library). Well, on its second circulation, one of the tablets has already gone AWOL. For the most part, we are not overwhelmingly surprised (as for why we are circulating two items of noticeable value as well as demand when we expect issues with theft it really boils down to it was out of our hands). We are however, rather annoyed.
In this case since it is a single item out of a small highly visible collection, the first step in retrieval is phone calls requesting the item back. Once an item is overdue past a certain point the system automatically moves it to "Lost" and issues a bill to the patron. After which there is only so much we can do. We have in the past resorted to court for significant overdue items, but that was before my time so I'm not sure what ultimately we will be doing. Resorting to legal enforcement of library items is always sort of a fuzzy area, because while we do own the items we are a lending institution, so libraries aren't always taken seriously when we do look for police or court support in reacquiring our items.
In an ideal world we'll get the tablet back... but since we're not in an ideal world we have to hope that we'll still get it back regardless.
EDIT (1/31/13): If we don't get it back we will be going to small claims court. The patron does still have time to return the tablet, but hanging up on us when we call doesn't give us much hope.
EDIT (6/27/13): We worked out a payment plan with the patron, money didn't come through, and it was taken to the police.