Overdue No More

Closing a chapter in book-lending history, the Calvert Library has voted to permanently adopt the fine-free policy introduced in March.
    “We wanted to be sure that the practice had more positive outcomes than negative,” said library board president Carolyn McHugh. “We now feel confident that being fine-free has not significantly impacted material availability, and we are delighted to be able to remove barriers to information access for our community.”
    Automatic renewal will continue for four circulation cycles if no one is waiting for the item.
    The experiment followed an American Library Association resolution encouraging the elimination of fines as barriers to the mission of modern libraries.
    Overdue fines bring in less than $35,000 a year for Calvert Library, less than one percent of the library’s annual budget. To recoup some of that loss, the library is looking into processing passports, according to director Carrie Willson.
    “We can offer hours that are not available at our post offices, which will help many Calvert Countians with scheduling challenges,” Willson said. “We don’t have another county library system with our population density offering this service, so our estimates are imprecise, but we hope to recoup $15,000 this year and $30,000 in future years.”
    Physical circulation of materials has slowly decreased for libraries nationwide. People are using libraries more for classes, access to technology and as a community gathering space and checking out fewer physical books and more digital books and audio-visual materials.
    Removing the fines coincided with an increase of 1.62 percent in circulation; book circulation went up 3.8 percent and video circulation up 1.82 percent.
    Before the trial, the library had about 25,000 active cardholders. That number increased by close to 4,000 during the trial period.