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Kendallville library tosses fines

December 28, 2018

The new year means a new start for many, and the Kendallville Public Library is no exception.

As of Wednesday, the library will be fine-free. The change will eliminate overdue fines on most items, including print and audio books, music, movies, magazines and games. More popular items in the library, including mobile hotspots, cameras and video games, will still incur fines.

“Fines are meant to be an annoyance, not a revenue stream,” Katie Mullins, library director, said in a statement. “The Kendallville Public Library is fortunate to have a healthy budget and supportive community.”

Patrons can contact the library by phone, email, Facebook message, or simply stop in to waive current fines.

In the fall of 2017, the Evergreen Indiana Library Consortium offered a pilot program for fine-free juvenile library cards, which the Kendallville library adopted. Jenna Anderson, marketing specialist for the Kendallville library, said going completely fine-free is a natural step.

This year, the library collected about $12,300 in fines, which is less than 1 percent of its overall operating budget. A higher 2019 budget, which includes increased state revenue, will help make up for the fines.

“We’ve had a really healthy budget for the past many years,” Anderson said. “We actually had some money left at the end of this year, so we’re not worried about having to cut our services or having to cut our programs in order to make up the difference.”

Anderson noted there is a difference between fines and fees, and patrons will still be charged damaged or lost fees, with a lost item being overdue over 28 days. However, a new auto-renewal program can help extend that time period.

According to the Indiana Library Federation, eliminating fines is a growing trend among libraries in the state, though the exact number is not known.

Lucinda Nord, executive director of the federation, said members have held professional development sessions about this trend, where librarians discuss philosophies, costs and benefits of going fine-free.

“Going fine-free is one way to remove barriers to access,” Nord said. “For Kendallville Public Library, this is part of a cultural shift about how to serve patrons.”

The Allen County Public Library has considered going fine-free, and a staff group is currently looking into the issue, director Greta Southard said.

Between 2012 and 2017, ACPL saw fines for overdue items decline by about $220,723.

“That’s a good thing in the sense that hopefully fewer community members have fines and fees as an obstacle or a barrier to using the library,” Southard said.

In another attempt to limit barriers, ACPL released an app in 2012 that advises patrons to return or renew their items. In 2016, the circulation period for videos was extended to seven days.

Kendallville Public Library will begin an auto-renewal program, with a maximum of two renewals on most items. Patrons will receive an email when their items have renewed. The library will also provide doorstep delivery. 

“We want to be able to open all of those avenues, all of those different ways, that people can use the library,” Anderson said. “We want to open those up to the people who currently have fines, get rid of (the fines), and bring them back to the library.”

For more information on Kendallville Public Library’s fine-free policy, go to www.kendallvillelibrary.org/about-us/library-news/fine-free.

cstefanski@jg.net

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