Elizabeth Taber library is fine with no fines

Jun 24, 2019

MARION — For two months (and longer for the children’s and young adult material) the Elizabeth Taber Library is fine with not having fines.

The library recently completed a project to make its physical doors more accessible. In the wake of that work, it decided to make its policies more accessible as well, by doing away with fees for children’s and young adult materials, and extending amnesty by waiving fines for adults who bring back or replace overdue materials.

The library fees were, after all, about recovering lost materials, not about punishing library users. Library Director Elizabeth Sherry hopes the changes will encourage more residents to use the library. 

She said the sense that the library may be excluding others is mostly based on anecdotes that she has encountered in her time as library director or as reference librarian, and hard to quantify.

However, she also pointed to children and young families as the demographics that are most impacted by fines.

Sherry said that far from being harsh disciplinarians, librarians feel bad when patrons can’t take materials out, since the library belongs to the community.

She said the librarians’ response in the event of a block on an account is more likely to be, “Oh, I’m so sorry you can’t check this out…”

And while some might say that fees on children’s materials teach younger users responsibility, Sherry said they are more likely to punish children.

“They are not always in control of when they are coming back,” Sherry said, adding that children also have no control over their parents’ ability to pay fines. “It shouldn’t be something that kids have to worry about,” the director added.

And how does waiving fines work for the library financially? Sherry said that what the library has historically collected from fees is “not a huge amount,” but notes that with libraries, “every bit counts.”

Still, she hopes that donors will step up to keep the children’s and young adult materials fine free.

“We would rather figure that out on our end than push it on to our patrons,” Sherry explained.