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Park City Council Wipes Out Library Fines

Park City Library

If you’ve ever been intimidated by the prospect of returning an overdue library book, and paying a fine, to a stern-faced librarian, the Park City council has good news for you.

The council Thursday night approved a resolution to drop library fines in the city.

The council approved the resolution to modify the city fee schedule, at the recommendation of Librarian Adriane Herrick Juarez and her board.

She said that other locales have taken up the idea of dropping overdue book fines.

“There is a movement throughout the country to go fine free.” Juarez explained, “As a matter of fact, in our state already, Salt Lake City public library went fine free over a year ago, Tooele went fine free, BYU library went fine free and Grand County down in Moab has gone fine free. So, we’re not on the bleeding edge of this. We’re actually just starting to see a lot of movement in this area.”

She said that people have asked her, how they get the books back. She cited one study that’s been done on the issue.

“Libraries that go fine free do not lose as many items.” Juarez continued, “Patrons return books in a more timely fashion. More people return to use the library because they lose that fear of facing a fine. There’s a 60% drop in overdue items and we have the best results getting books back by setting out friendly reminders. In addition, circulation increases about 15% it boosts morale for patrons and for librarians who are having those conversations, and it’s not much of a loss in funding.”

She said there’s a social equity aspect to the proposal too—for people who have to worry about their spending.

“We can see what a big impact something even as small as a fine can have on some families not finding it comfortable to come to the library.” Juarez said, “Because, if they get a fine that means something they’ll have to go without if they have to pay a library fine. So, I think social equity is a big piece of this. I will say I did go to Rotary not too long ago and one of the parents who I sat next to at lunch said to me, ‘my daughter can’t come to the library right now.’  And my librarian heart got stuck in my throat and I said, ‘oh gosh why is that?’ ‘She has fines.’ Well, I understand teaching responsibility but what did that little girl learn? Did she learn that maybe it’s scary to come to the library or it’s punitive? So, it is social equity that is a big piece of this but it’s everybody.”

Juarez noted that the costs of collecting the overdue books can be more than the value of the books themselves. That was a persuader for City Council member Steve Joyce.

“If you tell me it cost you $15,000 to make $10,000.” Joyce said while laughing, “I’m going to offer that you should stop doing it.”

Juarez added that the Summit County library system is looking at the same change. They’re hoping to undertake a joint effort that will roll out in January.

Known for getting all the facts right, as well as his distinctive sign-off, Rick covered Summit County meetings and issues for 35 years on KPCW. He now heads the Friday Film Review team.
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