PAWTUCKET – The Pawtucket Public Library is now a fine-free institution, say Director Susan Reed and Assistant Director Christine Jeffers.
After seeing many libraries in the nation adopting this protocol, the library followed in the footsteps of others. Jeffers said that at first the library just removed the fines for teens and children on late materials, but staff then decided to remove everyone’s fines and end the practice of fining patrons for late materials.
“Therefore, anyone really never has to worry about fines anymore when checking out something,” she said.
Reed said that there were many cases when children would borrow something from the library, not return it, not be able to afford the fine, and then feel as though they could not come back to the library.
“We wanted to encourage people to use it. We didn’t want fines to be a barrier, and of course they still have to return the material, but we did find out that sometimes fines were a barrier to kids,” Reed said. “They would say that they couldn’t use the library because they had a fine and we didn’t want that.”
Reed said fine-free libraries have become a national trend, with some local libraries adopting the practice.
“People still have to return it,” she said, and the penalty for not returning items would be that people wouldn’t be able to check out more materials.
“We certainly don’t want to stop people from using the library,” she said. “We’ll see how it goes.”
Though a penalty of any kind might still keep someone away, she conceded, it will hopefully be far smaller numbers of people. The library has extended loans through automatic renewals anyway, she said.
Reed said she expects more foot traffic at the library as a result of the change.
The library staff doesn’t anticipate having to buy many more books than it currently does, said Reed.
“We buy new books all the time,” she said, to replace worn or lost items.
The library’s Board of Trustees voted last June to eliminate fines for children’s and teen materials. Reed said the latest decision is an extension of what was started then.