In recent years, there has been another strong debate in the library world concerning the elimination of library fines. The fines are commonly considered to be a punitive method that libraries use to teach reasonability to the user and to ensure that library materials are returned within a certain period of time. But is this strategy really working?
To learn more about the benefits of removing library fines, we’ve recently attended a webinar hosted by SirsiDynix together with library experts such as Beth Crist, Meg DePriest or Judiane Koch. Here’s what we have learned together with 4 reasons why eliminating fines is beneficial for your library.
1. You can gain more time for other less stressful activities
The revenue generated by fines is almost inexistent in most libraries’ budget. According to previous research made on the topic, late fines represent less than 1% of the total revenue of a library and in many cases, there can be a cost to administer the fine. A librarian could even spend a few minutes processing a user payment of just 30 cents and this just adds on to the stress librarians undergo in their daily work.
In the cases where the library does have a fine management system, the user would spend those minutes figuring out how to pay 30 cents with their credit card. Which is more important, the satisfaction of your users or an almost inexistent revenue generated by fines?
This week’s pool:
How much of your library’s revenue is from library fines?
Curious what the others voted? The results will be shared next week on our blog, so stay tuned! Subscribe to our blog to receive the results directly in your e-mail box or find us on social media via Facebook or Twitter .
2. You can remove a big barrier between the user and the library
It is common that once an overdue fine reaches a high amount for a borrowed material, the library is not likely to ever see it again. Many people fear they would have to face the angry librarian and the enormous fine that they can’t afford. So, they would simply prefer to never visit the library again out of shame or lack of money.
Thus, the fear of being punished for not finishing a book in time is stressful for the library user and many citizens affirm that they don’t go to the library just because of that. So why not avoid these uncomfortable conversations with the user and consider the elimination of late fines?
As a way to remove these barriers between the library and the user and to increase the user trust, on June 1, 2017 Oak Park Public Library eliminated late fines, increased the loan period for movies, and increased the number of times users can renew items for Oak Park Public Library materials. As a result, people felt relieved when they learned about the change. Gwen Walski, an Oak Park library user highlights in an interview for Oak Park Library “I love the library, and my whole family gets so much out of it. I really appreciate the library making this decision to end fines. It’s such a relief.”
3. You can offer a new incentive for citizens to use the library’s collection
Sharing information and knowledge has always been the objective of a library even though the means have changed. As the library fines have been a common enforcement method applied by libraries everywhere, people have formed a correlation between the library’s collection and the possibility of a fine. By simply removing the fine, you offer an incentive for users to free and unrestricted use of the collection.