The City of Cape Town has advised citizens who have not returned borrowed library material to do so in order to give other people the opportunity to get their hands on the pieces of literature.Mayco member for community services and health, Zahid Badroodien, said that library staff do everything they can to minimise the loss of these materials.“If patrons do not return library materials, especially at the rate we are experiencing currently, the library collections become depleted, thereby depriving communities of the benefit of access to these materials,” Badroodien said.A total of 20 000 items were unreturned across the city last year and Kensington Library saw 185 of them being written off, a loss totalling R16 000.Maitland Library wrote off 51 items worth R5 000.“By not returning books, members of the community are deprived of the benefit, enjoyment and use of those materials. It also diminishes the value of a library’s collection as a whole because librarians spend time building collections that speak to their communities’ needs. If books are not returned, they create gaps in the collection which are challenging to fill as book budgets are limited,” says Badroodien.He said people can always renew an item if they wish to keep it for a longer period.People who do not return the books on time stand at the risk of a fine being issued against them.Overdue fines are calculated according to the length of time an item remains outstanding and ranges from R1 to R56.“Libraries may thereafter charge up to R56 per outstanding item. If a patron has seven items outstanding, the fine can be as high as R392,” Badroodien added.He further advised people to return overdue items as soon as they can because the total sum of fines is dependent on how long the item has been outstanding.As a courtesy reminder, Badroodien said, the Library Management System automatically sends out an SMS three days before materials become due.“Once an item becomes overdue, librarians call patrons to remind them to bring the overdue material back. This consumes a lot of time and effort, which impacts the service delivery to other library patrons who could benefit from the assistance of librarians.”In an effort to retrieve overdue items, the City has introduced Amnesty Weeks where people are invited to return long-overdue library materials at no cost.“During these campaigns, fines are waived and books are welcomed back by library staff who make huge efforts to market the amnesty events in the hope of retrieving materials and providing an optimal service.”A total of 6 067 items with a replacement value of about R1.2m were returned across the city during Amnesty Week which coincided with the annual South African Library Week in March. Over 2 319 of these items were long overdue.In the September Amnesty Week, which coincided with National Book Week, 7 365 items with a replacement value of about R1.5 m were returned.