Before we get into the nuts and bolts, a word of advice. What you say and how you act when you talk with patrons (students, families, teachers, museum curators, whoever) can have a lasting impact. There are people who will not go to a library because they were not treated well in a discussion about money. We have parents who don’t want their kids to have library cards because they owed money and the library staff couldn’t help. Remember, you CAN help! You can listen, you can empathize, you can make suggestions, and you can make deals. You can offer to take a quarter a week. You can offer Earn and Learn, something that does double duty: gets students to read more and erases debt.
Your goal is not to wring every penny you can out of people who lose books, especially little people. Your job is to keep them coming back to the library. Does that mean you waive every debt, every time? Of course not, because you still want people to to value what they borrow, and to know it’s not a handout. Use your common sense, and your heart.