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The original item was published from 10/11/2019 11:08:49 AM to 10/11/2019 11:09:53 AM.

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Posted on: October 11, 2019

[ARCHIVED] Proposal: Fine-free for Youth

Eugene Public Library is proposing a change: to no longer charge overdue fines on children’s and teen items. This change aims to promote early literacy and reading among all Eugene youth by making library use as easy and accessible as possible.


This week, Eugene City Manager Jon Ruiz signed the proposal, officially titled Administrative Order No. 57-19-03. See the administrative order here. Whenever a change is proposed to fees charged by the City, the administrative process requires a 15 day period for public comments or objections. Comments must be submitted in writing by 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, October 24 to Will O'Hearn, Library Services Director, 100 West 10th Avenue, Eugene, Oregon 97401, or by e-mail to WO'hearn@eugene-or.gov.

 

If this change goes into effect, Eugene Public Library would stop charging overdue (late) fines for children’s and teen items, joining a trend sweeping public libraries nationwide.

 

Any existing overdue fines for children’s and teen items would be removed from accounts. As a result, many Eugene Public Library cards that are currently blocked due to overdue fines would again be free to use.

 

Parents and teens are sometimes unable to get to the Library to return items before due dates. If an account has many items borrowed at once, the combined overdue fines can block use of the card until payment is made. For this reason, the existing policy sometimes creates an unnecessary barrier to library use, particularly for families already facing financial challenges.

 

“Eugene Public Library’s mission is to make books and other items and services easily available to the community,” says Library Director Will O’Hearn. “Taking a fresh look at our methods, we realized that overdue fines unintentionally made it harder for families to use the Library. It’s best for everyone, and for Eugene’s future, for households with children to have lots and lots of books around.”

 

Adds Library Youth Services Manager Kris Thorp, “We love to see parents and kids leaving with armfuls of books to read together. And to see teens exploring and borrowing big piles of books. Overdue fines can get in the way. Plus, the fines can easily add up, which hits low-income families especially hard.”

 

In recent years, public libraries from Portland, Oregon to Washington, D.C. have adopted similar overdue-fine-free policies. Based on those libraries’ experiences, Eugene Public Library expects most items will continue to be returned on time, because library borrowers respect the need to make items available for others to use. Items that have not been returned to Eugene Public Library by 30 days after due date would continue to be marked as “lost,” with the account charged for replacement and processing costs.


For more information or assistance, contact Eugene Public Library: 541-682-5450 or www.eugene-or.gov/library.

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Frequently Asked Questions

 

If the proposed policy goes into effect, Eugene Public Library would no longer charge overdue fines on children’s and teen items. Existing overdue charges for children’s and young adult items would be removed from accounts.


What is meant by children’s and teen “items”?

The proposed approach is based on the item, not on the age of the borrower. If the proposed change takes effect, overdue fines would not be charged for items in Library’s children’s or teen collections. “Items” includes books, movies, music, and other borrowable items. Children’s items are marked with labels starting with J (Juvenile). Teen items are marked with labels starting with YA (Young Adult).


Would overdue fines still be charged for adult items? 

Yes. Overdue fines would continue to be charged for adult items.


Why does this change include children’s and teen items only? 

This change aims to promote literacy and reading among all Eugene youth and is part of a larger goal to make library use as easy and accessible as possible.


What about existing overdue fines on my account?

If the proposed change takes effect, existing overdue charges for children’s and young adult items would be removed from accounts. (Please note: previously paid fines would not be refunded; and other types of charges, such as fees for lost or damaged items, would remain on accounts.)

 

Would I still receive due date reminders and overdue notices?

Yes. The Library would continue to provide due date reminders and overdue notices for all types of items. These courtesy notices are delivered by each borrower’s choice of communication: email, text, or automated phone service.

 

Would there still be a grace period?

Yes. The Library would continue its current 3-day grace period policy.


How can I get help understanding charges on my account?

Please contact the Library at any time for assistance in understanding charges on your account, setting up a payment plan, or other concerns. If there is anything preventing you from using your library card, please let us know. Visit in person or call 541-682-5450.

 

Why is Eugene Public Library proposing this change?

The purpose of this change is to increase and facilitate access to literacy and reading for all of Eugene’s children and teens. Parents and teens are sometimes unable to get to the Library to return items before due dates. If an account has many items borrowed at once, the combined overdue fines can block use of the card until payment is made. For this reason, the existing policy sometimes creates an unnecessary barrier to library use, particularly for families already facing financial challenges. That risk leads some families to borrow fewer items, or not to use the Library at all.

 

Without fines, would library items be returned on time?

Libraries that have made this change report that items continue to be returned on time or soon after, because borrowers respect the need to make items available for others to use. Items that have not been returned to Eugene Public Library by 30 days after due date would continue to be marked as “lost,” with the account charged for replacement and processing costs.


Doesn’t the Library need the money from overdue fines to buy more books?

Purchasing new materials is part of the Library’s budget every year and is not connected to overdue fines.

 

How would this affect the Library budget?

Eugene Public Library is currently focused on a commitment to increase access and services for children and teens. This initiative involves a variety of programs and projects, including this strategy. The cost of this change -- about $40,000 annually for no-longer-charged overdue fines, which represents .3 percent of the Library’s annual budget of $14.7 million – has been accounted for in the planning process.

 

What is the existing overdue fine policy?

For children’s and young adult items, the charges are 25 cents per day per item, up to a maximum of $5.00 per item. When the total charges on an account, including overdue fines, reached $10.00 or more, use of the card is blocked.

(If the proposed change is made, overdue fines for adult items will continue at 50 cents per day per item, up to a maximum of $10.00 per item.)

 

Which other public libraries have made this change?

Eugene Public Library would be joining a number of library systems across the country taking similar actions in recent years. Libraries that have adopted some form of overdue-fine-free borrowing include Multnomah County Library (Portland, Oregon), Springfield Public Library (Oregon), Salt Lake City Public Library (Utah), Los Angeles Public Library (California), San Rafael Public Library (California), High Plains Library District (Colorado), Noble County Public Library (Indiana), New London Public Library (Wisconsin), Columbus Metropolitan Library (Ohio), Nashville Public Library (Tennessee), Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Free Library (Maryland), the Free Library of Philadelphia (Pennsylvania), and DC Public Library (Washington, D.C.).

 

What have these libraries experienced as a result?

Generally, they report that items are still returned by due date or soon after; that overall borrowing has increased; that more children and teens have signed up for library cards; and that parents express appreciation and feel they can allow their kids to borrow more items per visit.

 

Questions? 

Please contact Library Director Will O’Hearn at 541-682-5363.


Comments?

To be considered before the proposed change is adopted, comments must be submitted in writing by 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, October 24 to Will O'Hearn, Library Services Director, 100 West 10th Avenue, Eugene, Oregon 97401, or by e-mail to WO'hearn@eugene-or.gov.


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