Overdue and under arrest! Woman gets JAIL TIME for library books

SHAWANO (WITI) -- Usually if you have an overdue library book -- you'll get a fine. But one Wisconsin woman got jail time!

30-year-old Tabitha Oost of Shawano won't soon forget her recent visit to Green Bay.

Last month, the married mother of two crashed her car on Mason Street. She was rushed to the hospital.

"The air bags went off. I ended up having damage to my scalp, my forehead and my left eye," Oost said.

While at the hospital, Oost saw a doctor -- and a Green Bay police officer.

"I was still bleeding from my head. I was still on the stretcher when an officer came in to check if I was okay, how I was doing," Oost said.

The doctor had good news. She would be released.

The police officer had some bad news.

"He told me that I had a warrant for my arrest for Shawano County due to overdue library books," Oost said.

Back in 2011, Oost had checked out a bunch of items from the Shawano library -- and never returned them.

Oost says she forgot about it -- but officials in Shawano didn't!

When Oost was picked up in Green Bay, there were two warrants for her arrest. As soon as Oost was released from the hospital, the officer took her to the Brown County jail.

"I thought he was joking, honestly. I couldn't believe it. I ended up laughing. The officer was laughing and then told me he was actually serious," Oost said.

Police in Shawano aren't laughing.

"If you fail to return items, you must be held accountable," Shawano Police Captain Jeff Heffernon said.

According to court records, in October 2011, Oost and her daughter checked out several kids books, including "Giant Octopus to the Rescue" and "Freddie and Flossie."

A few months later, Oost went back to the library and checked out more items, including some DVDs such as "Mary Poppins."

Total value of the 21 items checked out: $499.

The items were never returned.

Oost says she never received anything from the library about the overdue materials. But the library director says that's not likely.

"I do hear that explanation at times. I think it's a very minimal possibility," Kristie Hauer said.

Hauer says the library always contacts people with overdue books, multiple times.

Court records show in Oost's case, the library sent her at least two emails and mailed her three separate letters before forwarding the case to Shawano police.

"We're trying to work with people and it's kind of a last resort," Hauer said.

Hauer says if an item worth more than $25 is not returned and the person never responds to the library's repeat letters, the matter is sent to the police.

And it happens more than you might think!

Since 2011, the Shawano library has forwarded 140 cases to police. Hauer says many of those cases are for hundreds, even thousands of dollars.

"I think for us it's a way for us to be good holders of the taxpayer money that gets allocated to the library every year and to try to keep our collections in a good condition and in good shape for everyone to use. Most of the time if we're not able to have much feedback from a patron, it takes one quick contact by the police department and a patron responds pretty quickly," Hauer said.

But that's not what happened in this case.

Shawano police say in April of last year, an officer met with Oost to tell her that she had to return the items, pay for them or she'd get a ticket.

A week later, when the items weren't returned or paid for, police issued Oost two tickets for $177 each.

Those tickets came with a mandatory appearance in municipal court.

Court records show several notices were mailed to Oost's apartment.

She claims she never got them because she had moved.

When Oost didn't show up for two court hearings, the judge issued a warrant for her arrest. That's how she ended up in jail.

Oost only ended up spending about 10 minutes at the jail. Her friend came right away and paid the $354 to bail her out.

But she's not out of the woods yet.

That money was only to pay for her two tickets.

Oost still owes the library $499.

That means after all that's happened, the library still doesn't have its materials back or the money to replace them.