Auckland petrolheads are notoriously bad at returning library books.

Four of the 10 longest overdue books since 2014 were vehicle-related, with reads on muscle cars and motorcycles over four years overdue.

Meanwhile, the customer with the longest outstanding Auckland Libraries rental since 2014 was facing a bill of almost $3000 for failing to return 53 items.

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And a response from Auckland Council after an official information request via the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987, has revealed more than $4.5 million was collected by the libraries in overdue fines over the past four financial years.

In the first quarter of this financial year alone, $427,860 had already been received in fines placed on tardy borrowers.

Auckland Libraries head of content and access Catherine Leonard said the average outstanding fine for all library customers was between $21 and $22.

"This is skewed by a small number of very large outstanding fines," she said.

"Half of our customers with outstanding fines owe between $6-$14 and about a quarter owe more than $14."

But it was important to note not all fines were for overdue books, with fines also having been dished out over the later return of other items including DVDs, sheet music and magazines.

The top 10 longest overdue library books from January 2014 until November 2019 were also revealed.

During that period, the book with the longest outstanding return date was Joseph Cornell: Navigating the Imagination, due back in August 2014.


Meanwhile, the longest overdue book on record at Auckland Libraries was The Word on the Yard, by Janet Rising, due back in December 2012, Leonard said.

A courtesy reminder was sent via email three days in advance of the due date of a loaned item.

Once overdue, customers received reminders three, 10 and 24 days after the due date of the item and contact was made depending on the details provided.

"A bill for a non-returned item, which has been marked as lost, is sent via email or mail," Leonard said.

Illustration / Rod Emmerson
Illustration / Rod Emmerson

The largest outstanding fine for a single customer during the official information request dates was $2815.50 for 53 items which had not been returned on time.

It was an "exceptional case" because the customer was able to bypass the borrowing limit of 35 books at once by issuing out more than 50 in a single go.

Overdue charges total $1 per day for items not returned from the libraries' general collections, however, the charges were capped at $10.30.

Although the charges for unreturned items would be capped after 10 days, total fines could become larger due to replacement costs.

If the charges on a customer's account totalled less than $50 the outstanding debt would be wiped on the items after two years.

And if the charges were over $50 and had been referred to a collection agency, Auckland Libraries would write off the debt after five years.

A collection agency was only contacted if more than $50 in fines was owed and there had been no reduction in the amount owed within an agreed time frame.

Auckland Libraries said the vast majority of its customers returned items on time.

"As of today [December 16], 633,830 items are out on loan; 63,820 are overdue; exactly 10 per cent," Leonard said.

"We believe the vast majority of our customers do not require rules and protocols as motivation to return items.

"The fact that Auckland Libraries' customers can borrow and return at any of our 55 libraries [during and after opening hours] is highly valued."

Library customers who continually incurred overdue fines were not blacklisted.

Instead, if a pattern emerged Auckland Libraries would work with the customer to ensure they knew how to renew items or return them on time.

Longest overdue books between 2014 and November 2019


Joseph Cornell: Navigating the Imagination, by Lynda Roscoe Hartigan. Issued from Central Library 10/07/2014 and due 07/08/2014.

2. Tai chi for beginners: 8 lessons with Dr Paul Lam, by Dr Paul Lam. Issued from Manukau Library 30/10/2014 and due 27/11/2014.

3. Bats, by Phil Richardson. Issued from Pt Chevalier Library on 1/12/2014 and due 12/01/2015.

4. Kiwi Bike Culture: Unique Motorbike Collections, by Steve Holmes. Issued from Grey Lynn Library on 20/02/2015 and due 20/03/2015.

4. The Ultimate Guide to Muscle Cars, by Jim Glastonbury. Issued from Grey Lynn Library on 20/02/2015 and due 20/03/2015.

6. Taonga Māori in the British Museum, by Dorota Starecka, Roger Neich, Mick Pendergrast. Issued from Grey Lynn Library on 09/02/2015 and due 15/04/2015.

6. Māori treasures of New Zealand, by Paul Tapsell. Issued from Grey Lynn Library on 09/02/2015 and due 15/04/2015.

6. Motorbikes around New Zealand, by Matthew Wright. Issued from Mt Albert Library on 10/02/2015 and due 15/04/2015.

6. Art of the Harley-Davidson Motorcycle, by Dain Gingerelli. Issued Mt Albert Library on 10/02/2015 and due 15/04/2015.

10. Toe fo'i. Return, by Turisi Samoa, in association with SBUDZ. Issued from Clendon Library 20/05/2015 and due 17/06/2015.

Amount collected in overdue fines (financial year)

FY 16/17:


FY 17/18: $1,387,215

FY 18/19: $1,228,289

FY19/20 (1 July – 31 October): $427,860

Total: $4,551,428