Library users, rejoice! Well, if you’re in the San Diego area that is. San Diego Libraries are forgiving two million of dollars worth of overdue fines. This decision comes after more than 70,000 people have been banned from checking out books due to their racked up fees.
image via structure magazine
According to the Washington Post, 130,000 residents have ignored the cardinal rule of the public library: bring back the books. While we are all guilty of this, not all libraries have taken such bold steps to bring patronage back to the library. The amassed overdue fines all come before the library’s decision to discontinue daily late fees in July 2018.
According to City Councilman Chris Cate, “We don’t want to penalize people. We want them to bring the materials back but we’re saying, ‘It’s okay if you’re a little bit late. We’re going to get rid of those fines.'” Any fees that accrue due to unreturned books will still accrue because the materials will need to be replaced for other users.
image via kpbs
One of the biggest concerns facing decision makers on this policy was this affected members in low-income areas the most. In these areas, 40% of patrons were barred from checking out books. When you’re poorest members can’t afford to check out a free book, it is obvious the system isn’t working. It affects children the most, who rely on the library for educational purposes as well as other programs promoting childhood literacy.
The system also doesn’t work for the library itself. According to Library Director Misty Jones, “We found that we brought in about $600,000 in fines a year and it cost us $1.2 million to collect those fines.” The cost adds up when fees are sent to collection, letters are printed and mailed every month, and the materials end up not being returned due to users inability to pay those dues.