Is the lifting of library fines long overdue?

The indubitable Christian Science Monitor has an article analyzing the issue of fines. A very thorough but quick examination of the issue, nicely written. Where does your library stand?


NetFlix was started when the founder of NetFlix was charged a $40 late fee at Blockbuster for a late return of Apollo 13. Blockbuster created there greates competitor by there late fees.
After I was charged an entire extra week rental on a movie that was 2 hours late I have not used Blockbuster in over 6 years. I have convinced at least a dozen friends to not use Blockbuster and I pitch NetFlix to anyone that I think will find it a useful service.
A friend of mine who is a young professional with a graduate degree was a regular user of our local libary. He would have 5 or 6 items checked out at any one time. He was consistently running up $10 library fees. On Amazon there are thousands of books selling for .01-.25. With shipping these books are $3.51 to $3.75 a piece. No he buys three books a month with his $10 and no longer uses the library.
I used to check out books from my kids at the library but they would ending up squirreling at least one book away in a toy chest or under the bed. We find them eventually but often only after running up a $5 fine. I can buy between 20-50 childrens book at my local thrift store for that same amount. I have built a beautiful collection of kids books for my daughter by doing this.
Like it or not it is a NetFlix world. You can continue to alienate patrons or you can encourage them to use the library.

Our library -- a University library -- has not had fines since the early 1970's. Instead, we use a system of demerit points. A user accrues four points for each day that a book is overdue. When they reach sixty points, they get suspended for two weeks.The basis of this scheme is equity -- recognising that some students have more income than others (or rich parents) and therefore some can more afford to pay fines than others. The demerit points scheme means that all students have the same access to books, and one student cannot keep a book for longer because they can afford to pay fines.Of course, in an academic library you have many students competing for the same books, which doesn't necessarily apply in public libraries. Still, they should consider a demerits scheme instead of fines.

Fines don't bother me. I see it as my way of contributing to my public library. The main reason I actually use my library is that I don't want to buy hundreds of books. I don't have the room for them and I don't want the hassle of getting rid of them. In our library system, you don't get cut off (from borrowing or using the PACs) until you have $30 in fines. I usually pay mine off when it's somewhere between $10 and $20. And then I try again, to not get any fines...but I always do.

If borrowing a book costs me .25cents /per day my branch is open...I generally don't run up enough fines per item, to worry about it. My library lends DVDs. The borrowing period is three weeks and if I need it for another week, it costs me $1.25 in fines, if it's a full week late. For the few times this happens to me (generally when I borrow full seasons of TV shows)

I'm fortunate in that our library is quite responsive to requests from the patrons re: DVDs. Yeah, it might take a couple months to get the hot new movies...but if I really want to see it, I'll either buy it or rent it from the video store. (I'm impatient, so I'm sure that even with Netflix or a like service, I'd still be renting the newest movies from the video store.)

I guess I just don't see anything wrong with being held repsonsible for the materials I sign out of the library. When I signed the library card I agreed to their terms and conditions. I support my public library by using it and paying fines when I accrue them. I think it's a very small price to pay for the services they provide us.


From my experience, books under toy boxes or beds are found because the fines are accruing, or a replacement fee is owing.
Some people are always going to prefer to own books, others read too much or are too poor to do so. And while second hand/charity shops may offer a lot of books, I find that for children's books anyway, they are Little Golden Books or Disney knoockoffs for the most part.

I love Netflix, its the greatest thing since the invention of television. But they do fine. I don't get another movie until I return or pay for the one I have. Plus you are limited to only having a few dvds at any one time (though you can pay $50 a month if you want up to 8 at a time).

Its a good model and maybe libraries could emulate it in some way but no matter how you get around it, if you don't bring back the book you're going to get fined in some way.

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