Library fines. Everyone hates them, right? Well–I kind of like them, or at least I don’t mind them, because I feel like I’m contributing to the petty cash drawer. Anyway, overdue fines are ostensibly supposed to keep down the number of items that are, well, overdue. Not all libraries levy them; public libraries usually do, as do academic libraries (often with heftier fines for more expensive university materials), and in my day public school libraries also did. The corporate library I work in currently does not have a fine policy, which seems like a generosity, especially since we also have a policy of allowing people to renew items pretty much indefinitely, but since there’s no incentive to return things on time, hardly anyone does.
I suppose removing a library fine policy entirely might generate goodwill from the patronage, but my (perhaps sadly low) opinion of people generally is that there needs to be something in it for them–for better or worse–to return materials on time. Perhaps there’s a middle ground to be found in replacing late fee policies with another way of contributing: several high schools I encountered during my grad school internship had gotten rid of monetary late fees and instated a form of a canned goods drive. If a student had an overdue item, they could donate food rather than dollars, and the cans went to a local food bank. And there are other options as well, such as a policy stating that patrons with materials more than X days late may not check out more items until the overdues are back. I’d like to talk to my bosses about instituting something in our library, in an effort to encourage people to bring books back, and have been considering the options.
What’s your experience with library fines and fees? In favor or against?