The Buchanan District Library has eliminated all fines. It’s following a national trend of libraries going fine-free. Chicago, Kalamazoo, Detroit and other libraries have jumped on board too.
Library Director Meg Paulette took the job in July. She said the policy makes sense. “Why would libraries charge fines for things that are overdue?” She said the fines were keeping low-income people from using the library. “That’s affecting exactly the people that we want to help the most.”
Patrons still have to return items in order to take out new ones. Paulette said the policy also encouraged people to bring back things that have been out for a long time. In the first month she says they got back nearly $400 worth of long-overdue materials.
Sarah Suhm brought her two kids, Jude and Cameron to children’s story time on Wednesday--they come two or three times a week. She said the fine-free policy was a relief.
“It makes a huge difference. With having the little children and working part-time as well, it’s hard to remember to gather the books and bring them back on time. So if we’re two or three days late now, the stress is so much lower.”
Director Meg Paulette said people were sceptical at first.
“I think there’s some misconceptions again that ‘oh you won’t get your stuff back, oh people are going to take advantage of you’ and the research doesn’t show that. My experience so far doesn’t show that.”
Paulette hopes Buchanan can be an example for other libraries in going fine-free.
“I think there’s nothing to be afraid of. I think people should approach their libraries and say ‘hey, have you considered this?”
The Buchanan library got a grant to cover the lost fine revenue for the first year. Paulette says after that they plan on fundraising to cover the difference.