Al­bany pub­lic li­brary de­cides to drop fines

City lo­ca­tions make move as a way to in­crease ac­ces­si­bil­ity

Albany Times Union - - FRONT PAGE - By Amanda Fries

As a way to in­crease ac­ces­si­bil­ity, Al­bany’s li­braries will elim­i­nate fines on books and me­dia start­ing Jan. 1.

You can start off the New Year fine-free at Al­bany pub­lic li­braries.

As a way of in­creas­ing ac­ces­si­bil­ity, city li­braries are elim­i­nat­ing fines for books and me­dia start­ing Jan. 1.

Al­bany Pub­lic Li­brary joins many other li­braries na­tion­wide that have removed fines and, in turn, have seen in­creased use of their col­lec­tions, more peo­ple sign­ing up for li­brary cards and more peo­ple re­turn­ing to the li­brary.

“Late fines are a poor in­cen­tive for peo­ple to bring books back on time. And, they keep peo­ple who are un­able to pay those fines away from the li­brary,” li­brary Ex­ec­u­tive Direc­tor Scott Jar­zombek said in a news re­lease. “By elim­i­nat­ing late fines, we hope to bring peo­ple back to the li­brary and make it eas­ier for them to bor­row and use our col­lec­tion.”

Be­gin­ning next year, over­due books, DVDS, CDS and au­dio­books will no longer ac­crue late fines. Pre­vi­ous late fines for these ma­te­ri­als also will be waived.

Jar­zombek said those who have over­due li­brary items will still be billed if they’re not re­turned and will lose the abil­ity to bor­row other items until they are re­turned.

“Re­ally, what drives re­turns isn’t the fear of pay­ing the fine, it’s the fear of los­ing their bor­row­ing priv­i­leges,” he said.

When the item is re­turned, the bill will be thrown out, Jar­zombek said.

“This is a great op­por­tu­nity to get back some items that have

been out in the com­mu­nity for a long time,” he said.

Some of those items are years over­due, too, he added.

Fines make up about 1 per­cent of the over­all li­brary bud­get, Jar­zombek said, and with few re­turn­ing to pay that fee, it’s even less ef­fec­tive as a rev­enue source.

To com­pen­sate, the li­brary has shifted to more per­ma­nent rev­enue streams. The li­braries now sell nav­i­ga­tor passes and are con­sid­er­ing sell­ing pass­ports in the fu­ture, Jar­zombek said. Empty rooms at the Washington Av­enue branch also are rented out for class­room space, he said.

“We’re mak­ing money off of some things that are ac­tu­ally draw­ing new peo­ple into the build­ing,” Jar­zombek said. “We ac­tu­ally think it’s im­pacted our door counts and car reg­is­tra­tion.”

Over­due in­stru­ments and mu­seum passes will still ac­crue a late fee be­cause the de­mand is so high, he said.

De­tails of the pol­icy are be­ing fi­nal­ized prior to the Jan. 1 im­ple­men­ta­tion, and up­dates will be shared on the li­brary’s web­site, so­cial me­dia chan­nels and branches.

John Carl D’an­ni­bale / Times Union

Fines make up only about 1 per­cent of the Al­bany Pub­lic Li­brary’s bud­get and it is not con­sid­ered an ef­fec­tive source of rev­enue, of­fi­cials said.

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