FERRET enthusiasts and amateur ghost-hunters have contributed to thousands of books going missing from county libraries.
Figures released by Flintshire Council have shown 8,587 have not been returned to repositories as of October last year.
In total the missing books – one of which has been out on loan since 2000 – have led to £17,353.13 in outstanding fines for overdue books.
Librarian Nia Wyn Jones, who works at Mold Library, said during more than two decades working at the library, books about ferrets and ghosts are among the least likely to be returned.
She said: “I think a percentage of it is people who have moved house and the library books get packed away.
“I think some people are embarrassed when they realise. We are always happy to get them back.
“I think the ones that take longer to come back sometimes mean it is a book we were right to buy in the first place.
“A lot of the books out there are local history books, which we would especially like back.”
The maximum fine on an overdue book is £5.40, and customers can borrow up to 15 books at a time – meaning the maximum fine a tardy bookworm can rack up is £81.
If fines were uncapped the borrower of the book outstanding from 14 years ago would face a fine of more than £500.
Miss Wyn Jones said: “The amounts are not going to get people into serious debt, but because you can borrow up to 15 books at a time, it can be a significant amount of money and I think the fines sometimes put people off.
“But the main emphasis is on returning the books and, as we say, if they want to borrow more then they can pay the fines off. We offer an eBook service as well where you don’t need to return them because they are only available for the period you download them.
“If people find it difficult to get into that borrowing habit then the eBook service is one they could use.”
Miss Wyn Jones said last year, a book was returned to the library with a marker from the days of Clwyd County Council.
This means it was borrowed before the boundary changes in 1996.
She added: “I think probably when people are tidying their houses or having a clearout they might find them and we would always have the books back if they came across them.”
The total number of fines issued in 2013 up to October 25 stood at 15,174.
More than 13,000 of those were paid – meaning libraries netted £23,814.09 in fines over the 10-month period.
In 2012, £9,716 was collected in fines with £4,101 left outstanding.
Lawrence Rawsthorne, Flintshire Council’s head of culture and leisure, said the income from fines helped contribute to the budget for providing library services.
He added: “Flintshire libraries lend over 700,000 books and other items per year, in addition to digital loans of eBooks. The figure of 8,587 unreturned books represents items still overdue on loan over a period of over 10 years.
“This is a very small proportion of unreturned items compared to the cumulative loans over the period.
“There are processes in place for recovery of both fines and unreturned items, which have been approved by the council’s auditors.”