[Libs-Or] Late fees (was: Library cards for homeless/those without permanent address)

Abbie Anderson aanderson at cclsd.org
Tue Jul 10 15:07:48 PDT 2012

I had the privilege of working at FVRL as my first job out of library 
school. It was great to not have to deal with late fees. The question 
was periodically revisited, and each time an analysis was done it was 
found that the costs of implementing fines (develop cash handling 
procedures, invest in cashiering equipment, train staff, prepare for 
increased time with upset patrons) were found to be greater than the 
potential income.

Of course, the decision to *stop* charging late fees involves different 
questions. Can we afford the lost revenue? Will people become more 
careless with materials if we don't have fines? (as Dierdre said, the 
research says no--I don't have a citation either!) Will the customer 
service time and customer relations gains balance out the lost income?

Some of this depends on your patron base. Some communities have an 
ingrained attitude that not only do you get what you pay for, but that 
if it's free, it's not worth anything (or not as good). At FVRL, we were 
taught to avoid telling people (or putting on our publicity) that 
something was "free"--because it's not free, it takes money and effort 
and knowledge and expertise to deliver the materials, services, and 
programs that the library offers. It's just free of charge at point of 
service. :)

The flip side of FVRL's generous library card policy was that if you do 
*not* live in a place with a tax-supported library--including just 
outside the city limits in the "border" branch where I worked--you had 
to pay for a library card. This caused regular difficulties in my 
branch, since many of our regulars lived outside that jurisdictional 
border, and often couldn't afford the quarterly payment of their library 
card fee. We could give a card to someone who owns property in 
Connecticut, but not to someone renting a trailer in unincorporated 
Cowlitz County (five minutes' drive away). All the Lane County libraries 
know what I'm talking about! At FVRL we could offer people an 
Internet-only library card for free, but if they wanted to check out 
materials and lived outside our borders, they had to pay. There was no 
in-between (no limited-use card), IIRC. That policy may have changed 
since I left in 2009.

And now my lunch break is over and I can stop releasing overheated 
atmospheric contributions!

On 07/10/2012 11:13 am, Buzzy Nielsen wrote:
> Check out our neighbors to the north at the Fort Vancouver Regional
> Library District for a different model: They don't charge fines, and
> they give a free card to anyone who lives within the jurisdiction of 
> a
> tax-supported public library anywhere in the country.
>   http://fvrl.org/aboutus/policies/library_privileges.htm [4]
>  Cheers!
>  Buzzy Nielsen
>  ************************************
>  Library Director
>  Hood River County Library District
>  502 State St
>  Hood River, OR 97031
>  541-387-7062
>  http://hoodriverlibrary.org [5]
>   On 07/10/2012 10:15 AM, Diedre Conkling wrote:
>> Actually what happens without fines is that items get returned at
>> the same rate as in libraries with fines. The down side might be
>> that the returns come in a bit later, it is not that the items
>> aren't returned. The major up side is the reduction of stress on
>> staff. Yes, there has been research done on this. I am, however,
>> unable to point anyone to the research today but probably could
>> later in the week. Oh, the research is on return rates and not
> staff
>> stress levels. That is just a comment from my personal experience.
>> On Jul 10, 2012 9:30 AM, "Kyle Banerjee" wrote:
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> ------
> [1] mailto:banerjek at orbiscascade.org
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> [4] http://fvrl.org/aboutus/policies/library_privileges.htm
> [5] http://hoodriverlibrary.org

Abbie Anderson
Assistant Director
North Bend Public Library

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