Library eliminates overdue fines
Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library System customers have more to celebrate than just the New Year. As of Jan. 2, Heights Libraries will have joined a growing number of Ohio public libraries that have eliminated overdue fines for most late materials.
“Overdue fines are punitive, and can become a barrier to many people, especially young and low-income people who want to use the library but can’t afford to pay off their fines or are simply afraid that they’re no longer welcome,” said Heights Libraries Director Nancy Levin. “What we really care about is getting our materials back so everyone can use and enjoy them. As long as customers return our items, we no longer see a need to charge overdue fines.”
Customers will still see fines on their accounts, but those fines will disappear once overdue items are returned. Along with the elimination of most fines and fees, the library has also increased the number of times most items can be renewed, from five to ten times.
Circulation Manager Ty Emerson noted that over the past two years the library has added options such as temporary cards for non-Ohio residents, educator cards that give teachers special extended loan periods, and eMedia cards that can be obtained online, and this new policy is simply the latest effort to ensure community members can use library services and materials more easily. “It signals a further shift in focus from chastisement and restrictions to forgiveness and easier access,” said Emerson.
The new fine-free policy does have some restrictions, and it only applies to items owned by Heights Libraries. Through its membership in the CLEVNET consortium, Heights Libraries customers have access to items at other participating Northeast Ohio libraries via a hold system. If a customer borrows an item from a library that charges fines, the customer must pay those fines—Heights Libraries cannot waive them. This applies to any item obtained through the interlibrary loan service, as well.
Heights Libraries customers will still be charged fees for damaged or lost items, and late fees for video games and wireless hotspots still apply. The library has also lowered the fine amount that triggers a card account to be blocked, from $15 to $10, and a card will also be blocked if the customer has 20 or more items overdue.
“We’re hoping these changes will encourage people to return their overdue items more quickly,” said Emerson. “Once they do, they get a clean slate, and can check out their next 100 items.”
Sheryl Banks is the communications manager for the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library System.