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Summit County Libraries Might Do Away With Late Fines


It’s still in the discussion stage, but Summit County’s Library Board is looking at dropping fines for overdue books. Library Director Dan Compton says they’re thinking that the revenue they collect from small fines isn’t worth the staff effort put into it.

Compton said the fine-free system is being adopted by more and more libraries throughout the county.

He said that last year, the Summit County system collected about $11,000 in fines after putting in some 1,600 staff hours.

“They’re also finding that the amount of staff time that they spend dealing with fines and those transactions, is really not worth it. They would rather spend their time as staff doing more positive things being out in the community or doing programming. Helping people in the library on the computers. Things of that nature. I started doing some research on our statistics and it was pretty eye-opening. Last year, in 2017, there were over 20,000 fine transactions. These can be anywhere from 80 cents to a few dollars. That does take staff time to talk to the patron. Sometimes they have to talk about whether or not there should have been a fine.”

He said they heard from a representative of the Salt Lake City Library, which has been fine-free for about a year.

“by going fine-free it hasn’t changed anything negatively it’s just been positive. They were also finding in Salt Lake City that a lot of the poorer areas that folks were not coming into the library. They saw the risk of even getting fined as a reason not to go to the library. They said, ‘hey my kids check these books out and I forget to bring them back. That’s a bill that I can’t afford to pay, so we’re just not going to go to the library.’ Our mission is to try to serve everyone. People in poorer neighborhoods really need to be in the library and reading. It’s so valuable for kids to get a strong start in reading for the rest of their lives.”

Compton said due to these factors, he’s leaning in favor of the change.

However, he said even with this proposal, citizens are still responsible for books they check out from the library.

“You’re still responsible to bring the materials back when you check them out. If you don’t then you’re going to end up with a bill for that material. So, if you check out a book and keep it forever you’ll get a bill to pay for the book. If you bring it back, we’ll be happy to waive that.”  

The board hasn’t made a recommendation yet. Their next meeting is in Henefer on September 20th.

Related to that, Compton said they’re creating an improvement to Henefer’s library service. Previously, the town has been visited by a bookmobile for a couple of hours every two weeks. If residents missed that visit, they had to make a 20-mile round trip to Coalville.

Compton says now that’s changing.

“We’re getting a remote locker system so that residents in Henefer can place holds on our materials and we will bring them out there and they can pick them up when it’s convenient for them. We got an LSTA grant to do this and we’ve been working with the town and they’ve given us some space to do this. We’re having the meeting out there, so they can check out that space, because by then they should be installed.”

Compton also said the fine-free proposal ultimately has to be approved by the Summit County Council, which will need to change the library budget.

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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