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Broomfield Library System Will Go Fine-free in 2019

September 14, 2018
Broomfield Library System Will Go Fine-free in 2019

Kabrina Budwell checks out books with her son Ahldenn, 2, and daughter Alianah, 5 months, at the Mamie Doud Eisenhower Library in Broomfield Sept. 13

Patrons of Broomfield’s library who hesitated to check out books because of fines no longer have to worry..

Broomfield City Council voted to back recommendations by Abby Yellman, director of Library Services and Cultural Affairs, to eliminate fines throughout the entire Mamie Doud Eisenhower Public Library system.

“Kudos to you to come up with different options and picking out what seems to be the best choice,” said Ward 2 Councilman Mike Shelton. “By the data, it seems to be the right choice.”

Shelton thanked Yellman, and staff who worked on the research, for their diligence and discussion regarding eliminating fines.

Yellman took three options to the Library Advisory Board: eliminate fines on children’s materials, eliminating all fines, or offering amnesty days where patrons can drop off overdue books with no repercussions.

In June, after months of discussion, the advisory board voted 5-2 to recommend a fine-free future for library.

At 30 days, a library patron will still get billed for an item if it doesn’t come back, Yellman said, and the library sends out multiple reminders and alerts prior. The fee to replace an item is to keep people accountable.

Currently, a residents becomes blocked, or their card suspended, when fines reach $10.

Ward 5 Councilman Deven Shaff casually asked if someone had, say $2.66 in fines, would they stay intact or be forgiven.

“Our goal is to remove those,” Yellman said, and that there will be an “amnesty day” ahead of the policy being enacted. “Start everybody fresh and clean.”

The new fine-free policy will go into effect January 2, to line up with the next fiscal year.

Fines exist for one of three things: to generate revenue, for the timely return of materials and to teach civic responsibility, Yellman said, but their review of research found the negatives outweighed the benefits.

Broomfield data shows that fines impact more than just low income families, Yellman said, but that lower income families make the largest portion of the 6,000 blocked users, based on data as recent as February. Of those, nearly 500 are children.

Data shows that amnesty days, or waiving fees during food drives a couple of times a year, simply puts a “Band-Aid” on the problem, Yellman said.

When it comes to returning materials, libraries that have gone fine free, including Arapahoe Libraries and Anythink Libraries, are seeing an uptick in the return of materials, an increase in circulation, or both, Yellman said.

Teaching civic responsibility is subjective, she said, and the conversation turns to whether the library should be teaching people to be responsible. When it comes to young children, they might not be able to return items without an adult and still are getting penalized.

“I think it’s more important to keep kids reading,” Mayor Randy Ahrens said. “I applaud this for that reason.”

Jennifer Rios: 303-473-1361, riosj@broomfieldenterprise.com or Twitter.com/Jennifer_Rios

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