October 3, 2019
Southwest Public Libraries goes fine free, October 1, 2019
Grove City, Ohio—Southwest Public Libraries has officially gone fine free as of October 1, 2019. Joining a growing number of libraries in central Ohio, Southwest Public Libraries will no longer charge overdue fines on most items. The library Board of Trustees voted in favor of this decision in order to erase barriers to library use.
“The mission of Southwest Public Libraries is to serve as the community’s center for lifelong learning, not keep people away,” says Mark Shaw, Director of Southwest Public Libraries.
“Fines tend to keep patrons away whether from embarrassment or an inability to pay,” says Technology Services Librarian Katie Puckett. “We want to break barriers to access and encourage people to use and return to the library.”
Libraries have traditionally viewed overdue fines as a means to ensure that patrons returned materials on time. Recent research, however, suggests that fines may actually discourage patrons from using or returning to the library. Fines can be punitive to the most active and loyal patrons, and they can disproportionately affect low-income households. Libraries that have gone fine free report positive public response as well as an increase of patrons returning to the library. Many bring back materials that they have had out for years. In addition, most libraries that have gone fine free report that a majority of their patrons still return items on time.
A Southwest Public Libraries committee and the library Board of Trustees carefully researched and discussed the fine free policy before approval. Initial concerns about potential loss of revenue were alleviated after analysis demonstrated that fine revenue had already been steadily decreasing over the past 5 years. At the time of policy approval, fines made up less than 0.5 percent of library revenue.
Under the new policy, patrons at Southwest Public Libraries are still encouraged to return materials on time but are no longer charged daily overdue fines on most items. Items borrowed through certain interlibrary loan systems will still accrue daily overdue fines. Patrons remain responsible for replacement charges for lost and damaged items. As in the past, patrons will receive multiple overdue notifications before their account is blocked or replacement costs charged. Blocks and replacement charges will be removed once items are returned. The library will continue to use a materials recovery agency to recover debts from lost and damaged items.
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