At the Delaware County District Library, it is our pleasure to offer the best experience we can to the community we serve. That experience includes our frontline staff interactions with patrons, the facilities we have available for public use, the diverse materials we provide, and the overall fostering of a love of lifelong discovery.
Unfortunately, there can sometimes be barriers that stand in the way. In the case of the Delaware library system, that barrier presented itself in the form of fines. When interacting with our patrons at a public event, we often heard, “I love the library, but I have fines.” The patron would hang his/her head in shame, and some would even mention that, because of their fines, they haven’t returned to the library in months – and sometimes years!
Many patrons did not know that the Delaware library system hasn’t charged fines on books since December 1984. Fewer knew that even if a book were long overdue, either returning it or paying the replacement cost eliminated that material’s accrued fines from their account. Entering 2016, the only fines charged to patrons were for late DVDs and videogames, which accrued at $2 a day.
As a library, we are much happier seeing our patrons regularly using the library and bringing back materials, whether late or on time, without fear of fines, than the alternative of never seeing a patron again because of a stack of late DVDs that have amassed more than $50 in fines. In 2015, fines represented less than one-half of 1 percent of library revenue. Overall, fines scared patrons away from library resources, and they made little to no fiscal impact.
With this history and information in hand, DCDL Director George Needham, the board of directors and staff worked together to pass an updated policy that eliminates charging late fines against patrons. However, in order to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to check out library materials, we will continue to suspend a patron’s borrowing privileges if materials are not returned within a reasonable period. These changes have been slowly implemented over the past month, and library staff are seeing many patrons walk away happy knowing that their overdue fines have been waived. Staff even mention that some patrons, while preparing to pay their fines, have instead offered its equivalent as a ‘thank you’ donation to the library.
The Delaware County District Library is thrilled to now be a fine-free library. We know our patrons will still return materials in a timely fashion so others can enjoy the same stories that make us smile, laugh, cry and improve our overall quality of life here in Delaware County.
If you have a question that you would like to see answered in this column, mail it to Nicole Fowles, Delaware County District Library, 84 E. Winter St., Delaware OH 43015, or call us at 740-362-3861. You can also email your questions by visiting the library’s website at www.delawarelibrary.org or directly to Nicole at firstname.lastname@example.org. No matter how you contact us, we’re always glad you asked.