WARSAW — The Warsaw Community Public Library Board of Directors heard a proposal from library staff about the possibility of eliminating fines for overdue library books.
At its monthly meeting Monday, May 14, the board heard from Library Director Ann Zydek and Assistant Joni Brookins about a new trend that would eliminate the long-standing form of charging fees for books not returned in time.
“As I understand it, a little bit of research has been done,” said Zydek. “Lafayette has made the plunge. It’s based on research.”
Brookins told the board that library staff members attended an event that highlighted the new trend.
“Most of us, department heads and all, are fairly in favor of the idea,” Brookins said. “West Lafayette and Hagerstown have recently gone fine-free.”
Brookins said opponents to going fine-free often point to the potential loss of revenue when no late fees are charged. “It’s less than one percent of our total budget for a year,” she said.
Brookins told the board that going fine free can have different looks, from eliminating fees on all materials to eliminating the fines for certain things such as children’s items.
“There are places that have done one or the other,” said Brookins. “We kind of thought that if we did it, it’s best to go totally fine free.”
Brookins said converting to a fine free system would require a certain amount of logistics to make the conversion. “There is a lot more that we’d have to do to do it,” she said. “We wouldn’t be ready to do it until the fall. There’s policy that has be changed, there are changes to the system that need to be done. There’s just a lot of work to be put into it.”
Brookins told the board that the primary incentive for making such a conversion is the perception from the community.
“It’s an excellent public relations when you say that you’re not charging fines,” she said.
Board member Jill Beehler said that eliminating fines could create issues for people waiting on books or other materials.
“How do the people waiting for a book react?” she asked. “That would be one of the questions that I would want to ask some of the other libraries,” Brookins said. “That is a concern. We don’t know the answers to everything at this point but we’re not going to just make it a free-for-all kind of a thing. There will be rules. But, we’re just trying to not set up those barriers to use of the library.”