May 27, 2022

Michigan Couple Facing Jail Time Library Fines For One Book That Was Returned Late and a Lost Copy of a Dr. Seuss Title

UPDATE May 5, 2016 Michigan couple avoids jail over lost Dr. Seuss library book (via AP)

The story below is perfect for your truth is often stranger than fiction folder.

From WXYZ (Detroit):

Cathy and Melvin Duren kept forgetting about two books they checked out of the Tecumseh Public Library and failed to return.

Now, the Durens are facing jail time after the Lenawee County Prosecutor charged each of them with Failure to Return Rental Property. The couple thinks it’s unfair that they never would have been charged with the misdemeanors, if they had just paid a diversion fee to the Lenawee County Economic Crimes Unit.

The couple’s teenage son used Cathy’s library card to check out a Dr. Seuss book in July 2014. It was for their granddaughter to read during a visit, but the book was lost.

Then, in April 2015, Cathy used her husband’s library card to rent The Rome Prophecy.

In December, the Durens got the last demand letter from the library that advised them to return the two books and pay the fees and replacement costs if they could not locate the books. The letter also advised them that they could be charged with a crime.

Today, at home the Duren’s were served with warrants and each had to pay $100 each bond to avoid jail time. Their court date will be within 10 days.

Make sure to read the complete article.

Since the WXYZ first reported the story it has been picked up for regional, national, and international coverage by the Associated Press. The AP article, “Couple faces jail over lost Dr. Seuss library book” is available here and elsewhere. This is they type of report that just might go viral.

Brief Comment: Give us a break! 100% awful and disturbing beyond the library’s involvement. Sadly, we’ve seen similar stories over the years.

Although the Lenawee County, Michigan prosecutor filed the charges the negative publicity and outrage does nothing but damage the image of public libraries everywhere.

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.