District's public libraries to end most late fines

|
Local,DC,Alan Blinder
The D.C. Public Library's board has quietly backed plans for an overhaul of the system's overdue-fine system, including the elimination of daily fines.

Under the new guidelines approved Wednesday, the library would institute a flat fine of $5 for items that are more than 30 -- but fewer than 60 -- days overdue. Currently, overdue fines on adult books and CDs are 20 cents for every day the item is late with no limit, and DVDs accrue a fine of $1 per late day.

At the 60-day late mark, the library plans to tack on a lost-or-damaged fee in addition to the new overdue fine. The highest lost-or-damaged fee will be $20, so the maximum fine will be $25.

Lost or damaged?
The D.C. Public Library is poised to change its fees for lost or damaged materials. Under the new guidelines, the library will charge users flat fees instead of the actual price of the item.
Hardcover books: $20
Paperback books, CDs, DVDs and audiobooks: $15
Magazines: $8

Children's materials are and will continue to be exempt from overdue fines, except when the books are lost or destroyed.

The library will also raise the limit on fines (from $15 to $40) that customers can accrue before the system blocks their access.

The District's top librarian said the fine changes would help more people use library materials.

"Most libraries find that the real reason people return their books if they've got them out overdue is because they want to get more," Ginnie Cooper told The Washington Examiner. "We wanted to minimize the barriers to that access."

The board approved the new policy less than two weeks before a fine amnesty program concludes on Feb. 5.

In a memorandum to the board, library staff members said the amnesty program has helped to attract residents back to D.C.'s library system, a trend they'd like to continue and one that a change in library fees would support.

"It has been successful both in having materials returned and more importantly, in having customers return to the library as active users," board members were told. "The goal, after the amnesty program is over, is to see as many of these newly returned customers as possible continue to use the full array of library services."

George Williams, a library spokesman, said that through Jan. 20, the libraries had collected 15,368 items since the amnesty program began in December. Though some of the items were too damaged to be used again, Williams said most of them will return to circulation. The library, which had also forgiven about $85,000 in fines, has a collection of about 2.2 million books, CDs and DVDs.

The new policies won't go into force until at least March.

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

View article comments Leave a comment