Park City Library turns page on overdue fines
January 2, 2019
The Park City Library has turned the page on overdue fines.
The Park City Council recently voted to eliminate the fines through a change in the schedule of fees charged at the library. The elected officials did not spend extensive time on the topic, and the public did not appear to closely follow the move. The Park City Library Board, though, was required to approve updates to policies to reflect the elimination of the overdue fines.
The Library Board took the necessary action in December. The policy went into effect on Dec. 19, meaning the library stopped charging overdue fines on that day. The decision by the Library Board was expected after the panel in November forwarded a recommendation to the elected officials that the overdue fines be eliminated.
The fines had been set at 10 cents per day with a maximum of $5 per item. Charges for lost or damaged books remain intact.
The Park City Library argued other libraries in the U.S. have dropped late fines as well. Library officials contend worries about late fines persuaded some potential patrons not to visit. The Summit County Library is expected to take a similar action shortly.
Adriane Herrick Juarez, the library director, said staffers have received supportive comments since the overdue fines were dropped.
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"Fines were discouraging and they are happy to be coming back to the library," she said about the recent input from the public.
The library plans a public-relations campaign starting in late January to explain the policy. Staffers also intend to provide the elected officials with an update detailing the results of the new policy after one year.
"It has been shown that fines are not what bring books back as libraries across the country have begun to eliminate fines in favor of friendly notices and reminders that increase communication with the public and express the value of sharing library materials in the community," Herrick Juarez wrote in a report drafted for the elected officials in anticipation of the City Council vote.
The report also outlined the financials of adopting a fine-free policy, arguing it cost the library more in staff time to collect the fines than was brought in through them. In the 12 months between mid-2017 and mid-2018, the report said, the library brought in approximately $6,400 in revenues from fines. It spent approximately $17,851 in staff time to collect the fines, leading to a loss of approximately $11,452 during the 12-month period.
The report, meanwhile, said the fines were the "#1 source of negative customer experience at the Library. We want the Library to be a welcoming place, not one of contention." It said the fines did not fit with City Hall's social equity efforts, which are designed to create a more inclusive community.
"Less support for the Community Critical Priority of Social Equity as those most needing Library Services often stay away from the Library due to fines, with many not coming to the Library in the first place for fear that they or their children may incur fines they cannot afford," the report said.