How removing overdue fines actually works
- All materials belonging to the Southgate Veterans Memorial Library have been altered, so that they no longer assign overdue fines when they are returned after their due date. It doesn’t matter where you return them, who borrows them, or how late they are; no overdue fines will accrue.
- All existing overdue fines for materials belonging to the Southgate Veterans Memorial Library have been forgiven. If you still have such a fine on your account, please notify library staff, who will make sure it is removed.
- Materials belonging to other libraries will still assign overdue fines, unless, like Southgate, that library has abolished them. You may still end up owing overdue fines for items sent from other libraries to fulfill holds, for example, or for materials you borrow directly from another library you visit. All libraries have the right to set their own policies, and we respect that.
- Overdue items will still be marked as lost, if they are overdue for more than 21 days (3 weeks). You will be charged for the cost of lost items, just as you would be now. If the lost item is returned, you will no longer be charged for the cost of the item, and no overdue fines will be applied.
- If you end up with over $25 in lost item fines, your account is sent to a collection agency, which incurs a $10 processing fee; this will also still be charged to you.
- If items are damaged while in your care, you will still be charged the cost of the item.
Here are answers to a few common questions or concerns.
- Q. Don’t overdue fines make sure people return items on time? Won’t removing them mean I’ll have to wait longer for that new, popular book I wanted?
- A.What research has been done on the subject shows that overdue fines don’t actually compel most people to return borrowed materials any earlier. While some libraries have reported a small increase in the number of items that are overdue, most patrons still return their items on time, just as they do now.
- Q.Doesn’t the library need the revenue from overdue fines to keep providing service?
- A.Overdue fines actually account for less than 1% of our total operating budget. While it is true that we could always find a use for even that small an amount, the cost to our mission of providing access to information outweighs the financial benefit of charging overdue fines.
- Q.Isn’t teaching responsibility a part of the library’s job? How does letting people return items whenever they want, without repercussion, accomplish that?
- A.There are many places that teach responsibility, we do not regard it as part of our mission to do so. Also, please keep in mind that patrons are still expected to return their materials on time. Items kept too long will still be marked lost, whoever checked it out will be charged for the item, and they will lose borrowing privileges until the lost items are returned or paid for.
- Q.Libraries have always charged fines for overdue items. Why change that now?
- A.Overdue fines have a disproportionately high impact on lower income families and individuals, often the people who most need free access to information. Hundreds of Southgate residents were unable to borrow materials due to overdue fines. Some people avoid ever getting a library card, for fear of overdue fines that they know they wouldn’t be able to pay. It is our hope that, with overdue fines removed, more people will be able to seek out our services, and benefit from the library.
- Q.Why doesn’t EVERY library remove overdue fines?
- A.Each community is different, and not every library is in a position, like we are, to do without the revenue created by overdue fines. Not all library professionals agree that removing overdue fines is the right step; relatively few libraries have done so thus far, so exact data is sparse. Overturning such a long held tradition is no small or simple task, and it is unlikely every library will ever be able, or willing, to do so.
Is there still something you’d like to know about removing overdue fines, or an opinion you would like to share? Please, feel free to contact the library, and ask for the Director, Don Priest. I will be happy to talk about why we, along with several other local libraries, are making this change.