Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Library Fine Business Model

Is the lifting of library fines long overdue?

Some libraries no longer charge fines for overdue books. They want to make their libraries a more positive experience for their patrons and not create ill-will by nickel-and-dimeing them to death.

For some libraries, fines collected for overdue materials is part of their business model! They need the money. The Chicago Public Library collected over $1 million in fines last year, and the San Diego Public Library pocketed almost as much.

It makes me wonder if these libraries could stay in business if everyone brought their books back on time.

Netflix and Blockbuster are leading the new wave by eschewing fines for overdue movies.

Incoming ALA President Leslie Burger defends fine collection:

"People understand that it's part of the way our institutions do business. It recognizes that when somebody takes an item out from the library, they're entering into a contract to take it out for a certain period of time. When they decide to keep it out longer than that, they pay a fee."

The problem is demanding repayment for small amounts of money is bad policy no matter how you look at it, and probably not cost-effective either. Hounding users with collection agency low-lifes is about the worst thing a library can do, if it's a goal to cultivate a positive image, encourage people to come back to the library, and make them feel like voting in favor of that library levy on the ballot.

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