If you have a book that's almost overdue, you're going to want to know about our local libraries' new policy.

I visit my local library quite a bit. As the father of a son who has developed a love of books, I'm doing whatever I can to encourage his enthusiasm for reading. Because many of those young reader chapter books are a quick read, it's impractical to keep buying new ones at the store, so the library has been a great resource for us this summer.

Before we left for vacation my son was halfway through the next Encyclopedia Brown mystery, so we packed it away for the beach not even thinking that it was due before we would return home. After finally unpacking some bags from our trip I realized that I was holding a late library book in my hand.

With visions of the library investigator from Seinfeld hauling me off to jail, I finally got up enough nerve to head to my local library and face my punishment head-on. But instead of getting a lecture and hefty fines I was told that the book was already renewed. Puzzled, I asked her to make sure, because I knew that my son didn't call up and renew it himself. She assured me that the book was not overdue and then explained the library's new policy.

A few months ago the Mid Hudson Library System launched a new renewal policy that many libraries in the area have now adopted. A few days before your book is due to expire the library system will renew it for you. You don't need to call up or visit the library to start the renewal process, it just happens automatically. The only exception is if you have a book that someone has reserved after you. In that case, it needs to be returned on time.

Now, don't take this as a license to borrow whatever books you want and never return them again. The automatic renewal only takes place one time. If your book is overdue after the first renewal, you will be subject to fines.

So, if you're scrambling to finish that book before its due date you can breathe easy. Most likely the book has already been renewed and you've got a few more weeks to savor those last few chapters.

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