Greenwood library drops late fees

Greenwood book lovers who have stayed away from the library because of fear of late fees now have a reprieve.

The Greenwood Public Library has started waiving late fees for books and other items that are not returned on the due date.

The library’s board of trustees voted to stop collecting late fees for books that were not returned on time. However, library patrons will still have to pay if a book they checked out is lost. Existing late fees will also be forgiven.

Other libraries across the state and country have stopped collecting late fees in an effort to lure back patrons who may have stayed away from their local library because of staggering late fees, hopefully increasing overall circulation at libraries, local library leaders said.

And Greenwood library leaders heard from patrons who would not check out books because of the fear of late fees and noticed that people would stop going to the library if they had accrued large late fees, Greenwood library director Cheryl Dobbs said.

“We are looking to bring people back to the library and to make library use easier than it has been,” Dobbs said.

The library collected an estimated $9,000 in late fees annually, which represents about half a percent of the library’s annual budget. The library’s previous late fee charge was a quarter a day every day that an item was late. Greenwood is also a member of Evergreen Indiana, which is a consortium on libraries in the state. Greenwood follows its late fee structure, Dobbs said.

Other library services will not be cut and other savings are expected to make up what was collected in late fees. The decision was to decide that increasing circulation was more important than collecting late fees, she said.

“It was a prioritizing decision,” Dobbs said.

Locally, leaders of the Edinburgh Wright-Hageman Public Library are exploring getting rid of late collection too. The library currently charges a dime a day for late magazines and books and $2 daily for late DVDs, library director Chris Hoffman said.

The Johnson County Public Library, which has branches in Trafalgar, Franklin, White River Township and Whiteland, charges 20 cents a day in late fees for most items, said Monica Harvey, marketing and community specialist for the library.

The library system has expenses that does not allow it to eliminate late fees, but library leaders are working on an auto renewal system and the structure of late fees, said Kristen Grills, marketing manager.

The fines for DVDs was also recently lowered.

“We’re not prepared to go fine-free at this time. Our fines are a higher percentage of our revenue than theirs. They have their reasons for doing it and we have our reasons for not doing it,” said Lisa Lintner, Johnson County Public Library director.

The Johnson County Public Library does run a program that allows patrons with late fees to read in the library to reduce their late fees. Every 15 minutes of a book read in the library erases a dollar in late fees, Harvey said.

Libraries across the nation and the state are moving toward getting rid of late fees in an effort to make libraries more accessible.

Other library leaders were leaning toward late fee elimination at a district library meeting, the state library system is headed that way and the Bartholomew County Public Library system scrapped its late fee collection program earlier this year, Hoffman said.

“The biggest benefit of this would be the people who have fines outstanding and would stay away from the library because of that,” he said.

Greenwood has slowly began making the move toward abolishing its late fee collection program after hearing from patrons who stayed away from the library because of mounting late fees they could not afford. Others would avoid checking out books to avoid late fees, Dobbs said.

However, library workers have worked with patrons with late fees in the past few years with the idea that late fee collection would be history, she said.

“We tried to be very very flexible in the last couple of years heading in this direction,” Dobbs said.