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Iowa man lands in jail for overdue library books, CDs

Updated: November 30, 2011 12:16AM

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A Newton man who didn’t return overdue books and CDs to the city’s public library for months landed in jail on a theft charge.

Christopher Anspach, 28, was charged with third-degree theft on Aug. 20 after he failed to return items worth $770, police said. He checked out 11 books and six CDs, including a box set, in January. He was charged after repeated efforts to get him to return the items.

Anspach pleaded guilty Aug. 31 and was sentenced to 10 days in jail in the Jasper County jail. He was released Sept. 8.

A telephone number for Anspach repeatedly rang busy Thursday. A message for his attorney, Richard Phelps II, wasn’t immediately returned

Library Director Sue Padilla said Thursday that the library is serious about pursuing overdue books and other items.

“Books are purchased with taxpayers’ money and we try to be good stewards of library materials and make sure we have things for others to check out,” she said. “We trust they’re going to return them. That’s the philosophy of the library.”

Padilla declined to say if Anspach was a regular patron, citing privacy laws. She said they followed the library’s usual procedures to send overdue notices. In Anspach case, repeated notices were ignored.

She said Anspach was then barred, which means he could still come to the library but couldn’t use the library’s computer or check out items until the overdue fines were paid.

“That is still the case,” noting Anspach still hasn’t returned the books and CDs.

After the library’s overdue notices were ignored, the library contacted its collection agency, which was also ignored. The city attorney and police got involved and charges were filed.

“He didn’t ignore the police,” Padilla said.

Padilla said the library always pursues overdue books and other materials. She said the library’s system tracks overdue materials and an overdue notice is automatically sent when a book, magazine or CD is a week late. For DVDs, a notice is sent after three days.

“The most usual thing is once a person gets an overdue notice, they return the material,” she said. If it goes to a collection agency, that usually gets people attention, and most people will return the items.

She said it’s a “Lot rarer” to file charges, but it has been done in the past.

“It’s part of the procedure to keep the collection available for as many people as we can,” Padilla said.

The Newton Public Library services Newton, which has about 15,000 residents, and all of Jasper County. It’s also part of the state’s open access program, which means anyone with a library card can come in a check things out.

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