Fines, Fines, Everywhere There’s Fines

A quick search of library fines on Google will turn up a lot of comics and photos similar to this one.  This sets off an alarm inside of me.  We’re doing something wrong.  And it is hurting us.

We’ve got to rethink library fines.  Sure, they do get the books back.  But at the same time, think about all of the patrons we’re driving away.  Do you think people with $100 in fines on their card are ever going to set foot in a library ever again when they can just get internet access at home and forget about us?  I don’t think so.

I’m thinking that we need to look past the fines and figure out alternative ways for our patrons to repay their fines.  Here’s a few simple ideas I have:

  • Read Away Your Fines: This can work, although it is a bit antiquated.  This simple act is easy for people to do and it is enjoyable.  And it gets them in the library.
  • Promote Your Fines Away: Here’s an idea.  Say a patron has $15 in fines.  Instead of paying those fines, give them 5 vouchers to hand out to friends/family that don’t have library cards.  If those people bring those vouchers back and get library cards, POOOOOF!  Your fines go bye bye.
  • Attendance at library events: Is your library having trouble getting people in for programming?  If so, offer patrons something for attending these programs.  You can get them in the library, get them interested in programs, and their fines can go bye bye.  It’s a win win situation for us all.
  • Offer Amnesty Days: It’s simple.  You bring your books back on one certain day and the fines just disappear.

And then a funny thing happened only 12 hours after I started writing this post.  This article showed up in the New York Times and really said everything I wanted to say.  The whole article was really inspiring, but this one particular passage really summed it up for me:

In Pelham, N.H., the public library director, Robert Rice, offered a food-for-fines program during November.

“We will probably continue that policy once the new year starts,” Mr. Rice said. “The loss in terms of money was maybe $20 a day. We well made up for it with the amount of food that came in.”

He continued: “We got our materials back and did something positive for the community. Use is up greatly, and budgets are being cut. But we’re not going anywhere. We’re keeping the doors open.”

FOR THE COMMUNITY!  That’s what it is all about!  I love it!



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