Eliminating library fines nears conclusion

By Shawn Byrne

Editor/Photographer

Checked-out items from the Wickenburg Public Library may be more likely to be returned if the movement to a no overdue fine policy takes hold.

Library Manager Jane Baumbach told the Town of Wickenburg Library Advisory Board at its Dec. 10 monthly meeting that seven libraries within the Maricopa County Library District have already removed overdue fines and four more are currently in the process. Baumbach attended the MCLD Committee Meeting in November.

“There were no libraries present that are not removing overdue fines,” Baumbach wrote in the library’s December monthly report to the advisory board. “The Maricopa County Library District shows a 38 percent increase in active patron users.”

Maricopa libraries hope the elimination of overdue fines gets “more people to use library materials and services without the fear of incurring fines they can’t afford to pay. Additionally, library cardholders benefit from access to digital resources for learning, research or entertainment. Best of all, digital materials return automatically when they are due.”

The Maricopa district also found a decrease in desk transactions, falling to 870 from 4,800 since dropping the fines. Books and items are being checked out more frequently from Maricopa’s self-checkout machines.

Maricopa also discovered through a survey that 65 percent of those who participated said there has been no change in how they felt about the removal of overdue fines, 28 percent said it was an improvement and 1 percent said patrons should be held accountable.

If an overdue policy were to be approved for Wickenburg, checking out items could look like way Maricopa handles the situation. A patron gets 21 days to return a book, but if the patron isn’t finished with the book they would be encouraged to keep it until they finish. They will receive timely reminders that the book needs to be returned, and at 30 days it is considered lost. The patron will receive a billing notice that includes the replacement cost plus a $5 material lost or damaged fee. If the book were to be returned, the replacement cost would be removed from the patron’s account.

The policy for Wickenburg has yet to be determined.

Baumbach wrote in her report that the Maricopa libraries have seen a higher rate of return for its items, believing it is “because the patrons do not have to ‘walk the walk of shame’ for returning them late.”

The Library Advisory Board is expected to vote on a recommendation to Town Council whether to eliminate overdue fines or not at its next meeting at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 14 in Council chambers, 155 N. Tegner St. The debate on whether or not to remove these fines has been ongoing for two years, according to Baumbach. If Council were to approve the elimination of overdue fines, it wouldn’t happen until July 1.

“Things like this take time,” the librarian told The Sun. “If Council were to approve, it wouldn’t take effect until the new budget year.”

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