David Trinko: Forgiven late fees at library are great idea

You don’t have to avoid your local librarian like she’s a debt collector anymore.

Earlier this week, the Lima Public Library announced it eliminated late fees. If your book is a few days late, don’t worry about it. Just turn it in as soon as you can. There’s also a one-time forgiveness for all accounts.

In a press release, the Lima Public Library’s director, Gary Fraser, said it made the change to make people feel comfortable coming back to the library branches.

“We have found that fines tend to keep patrons away from the library instead of encouraging them to return materials,” Fraser said in a press release.

As a busy parent who has paid his share of late fees over the years, I can’t begin to explain how much I agree with this. We’ve greatly cut back on our trips to the library with the children, in part over the frustration of paying late fees when we miss the due date by a few days or when we’re tearing apart the house trying to figure out where a particular book was left behind.

The end result was our children weren’t immersed in the world of books the way I wish they had been, out of our own busy-ness and my own cheapness.

There’s certainly a cheapness to it, too. Every time I did pay a library fine, it amused me how little the fine was. As long as you hadn’t lost the book, it was reasonable.

Of course, free is even more reasonable. The Lima Public Library said only 0.17% of its operating budget from 2022 came from late fees, so it’s a minimal impact.

You can’t hold onto that book forever, though. The library will still charge you a replacement fee for any book not returned 30 days past its due date. If the book is returned, that lost fee can be dropped from the account.

That’s reasonable. After all, if you’ve borrowed it, you really should return it. If you lose it, you should replace it. It’s just common courtesy.

We were lucky growing up, as the library was catty-corner from our house for most of my formative years. I never had to go far to get a book to or from the library. Still, I felt motivated to return my borrowed items on time, for fear of having to find some loose change to pay my fine.

I hope this change works well to bring people back to the library. It can help change the stereotype of the library as a cold place full of shushing librarians to a place where your imagination can run free.


See past columns by David Trinko at LimaOhio.com/tag/trinko.

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David Trinko is editor of The Lima News. Reach him at 567-242-0467, by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @Lima_Trinko.