Recently New York Public Libraries made national news when it announced that it would be ending late fees in their continued efforts to promote equality. Dayton Metro Library in Ohio, where I work, ended fines for overdue items on January 1, 2018. Within 6 months our system noted that while our revenue from fees and fines were lower as expected, the overall loss was worth it in light of improved patron interactions and increased access to materials for young patrons.
From a children’s librarian’s perspective it was always upsetting when you had to tell a child that they couldn’t check out a book because they had too many late fees from items that were returned past the due date. When you consider that children are never in control of when they will return to the library and bring back their materials, the late fee can seem almost cruel. Petitioning your system to end late fees is a great way to advocate for your library’s children by removing one more unnecessary barrier to getting books into the hands of children.
It has been almost 4 years since we changed our policy on late materials, but every week I still get to let patrons know that we no longer charge late fees. Every time the patron has an expression of shock and delight that they will not be penalized for taking a little too long with their movies, music, and books. Of course we still do have to charge for damaged or lost materials, but getting rid of late fees has allowed our system’s staff to have an increased number of positive interactions with patrons and reduced negative ones where the issue with a user’s card revolves around money owed to the library.
Considering library work during the pandemic, where we are constantly having to inform or remind patrons about the safety measures in place because of Covid-19, it might be time for your system to follow New York Public Library’s lead and take at least one type of negative patron interaction off of your staff’s plate by ending late fees. This will certainly improve your staff’s experience at work, but more importantly it will have a positive impact on your library patrons both young and old.
This blog relates to ALSC Core Competency I. Commitment to Client Group.
Melissa Sokol is a Children’s Services Librarian for Dayton Metro Library. She is writing today’s post on behalf of the Public Awareness and Advocacy Committee. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.