If you missed the deadline to return a library book, you can save your money.
A new program that the Pikes Peak Library District began implementing four years ago is achieving the goal of opening its shelves to more bookworms.
Customers no longer pay late fines unless they lose a book or other documents, and borrowed books that are overdue automatically renew for an additional three weeks, unless someone checks it. tail.
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The “no-fine” concept works, said John Spears, chief librarian and CEO of the Pikes Peak Library District, which operates 15 branches in the Pikes Peak area.
“The point of doing it was to get people back into the library,” Spears said.
After researching and studying the issue, “we realized that fines don’t work; on the contrary, they were a barrier to using the library instead of getting people to return things on time, ”he said.
“They did the exact opposite of what a library should be able to do: put documents in people’s hands. “
The model started in 2017 as a pilot with material for children and adolescents. It was launched in conjunction with an amnesty program, in which all outstanding fines were lifted.
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“It was a wonderful surprise for people,” said Spears. “We didn’t want people to be faced with fines. “
Due to the positive response, the program has expanded and fines were lifted in 2019 for books and adult material.
This is news for some.
“I didn’t realize that was the case,” Daniel Fernandez said recently as he used the Penrose Library in the city center.
“I have a library card, but I haven’t borrowed a book since the last time I paid my fines, that was some time ago,” he said.
The best measure of the program’s success, said Spears, is the significant decrease in the number of customers who are prohibited from borrowing equipment.
In 2016, before the program began, more than 31,000 clients were prevented from viewing materials because they owed money for accumulated fines.
This represented about 20% of all library users.
Now just over 18,000 are stranded, he said, a decrease of 42%.
Another study conducted by the Library District prior to freeing themselves from fines showed that the percentage of patrons prevented from using library services was inversely related to their neighborhood economy, Spears said.
“The richer the neighborhood, the fewer people are stranded,” he said. “It was a sign to us that a fine certainly wasn’t working, and it probably became a user fee.”
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In the first two weeks after the program was fully implemented, the library saw a 1% increase in overdue books, Spears said, but after that the system returned to similar levels “as we have had. fines or not “.
However, specialty items that can be checked out, such as Colorado state parks and hot spots and wildlife viewing backpacks, are still subject to outstanding fines, he said. .
Fines over $ 10 trigger blocked status; However, if a lost item is returned, the loss charges will be waived, Spears said.
The loss of income is minimal and likely made up for by work, he said.
Tax fines made up less than 1% of the library’s annual budget, he said, which this year stands at $ 36.8 million.
“Overall fines have been going down for some time, and the cost they have to people, their ability and willingness to use the library, and with all the work involved in collecting fines, sending notices, situation that it created at the checkout – when you weigh all of that, it was not good for the library to do that, ”he said.
“We want the experience of people at the library to be positive.
The Pikes Peak Library District was an early adopter of the no-fine model, Spears said, and most major libraries have now switched to the system.
Client satisfaction with the surveys has improved every year since the Pikes Peak Library District adopted the program, he said.
Approval of the program is what Spears hears most about when he’s on the go in the community.
“We hear so many stories – people said for the first time that they were going to get a library card, or parents allowed their kids to get their own card, or they had horrible experiences in it. passed with fines and were so happy that “That won’t be the case anymore,” he said.