Greenwich Library closes book on overdue fines; customers make a clean sweep to “increase access” to the collection

GREENWICH – The days of late book fines at Greenwich Library are about to become a thing of the past.

A new policy eliminating fines will come into effect Monday at the main library in Greenwich town center and at branches in Byram and Cos Cob. Additionally, Kevin McCarthy, director of the independent Perrot Memorial Library in Old Greenwich, said it was also getting rid of overdue fines.

The removal of fines will “remove any financial burden that may have created a barrier to entry” for using the library and its branches, officials said, as they aim to “increase access” to library resources. the library to all residents, students and city employees. .

Additionally, all fines currently due will be removed from accounts, and no future fines will be charged on books, DVDs, CDs and other items in the Greenwich Library collection.

The amount of fines levied for late documents has steadily fallen in recent years, said Greenwich Library director Barbara Ormerod-Glynn. More and more customers are buying digital items such as e-books, which are automatically returned on their due date and are never subject to fines.

“The fine-free movement has been gaining momentum for several years,” Ormerod-Glynn said. “Before the pandemic, the American Library Association passed a resolution calling fines a ‘form of social inequality.’ We looked long and hard at what our fines were doing.

The fines “did not bring in significant revenue, but they could have driven customers away, either because they were embarrassed to have the fines on their accounts or because they couldn’t pay their overdue balances”, she said. “No reason should be a barrier to access.”

The New York Public Library has eliminated fines, as have public libraries in Boston, Chicago, Seattle and San Diego, as well as hundreds of smaller systems across the country, Ormerod-Glynn said.

The idea gained momentum at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, she said, because documents were being circulated without contact and fines were, at that time, temporarily waived.

“Meanwhile, the no-fines movement continued to gain momentum across the country, and staff and administrators began to seriously consider a policy change,” Ormerod-Glynn said. “Planning this initiative took about a year.”

The accumulation of fines on materials has been cited by studies as a reason why low-income families and others stop using public libraries, she said.

“This practice is inefficient and confusing to library users,” said Peggy Edersheim Kalb, Chair of the Greenwich Library Board. “This causes unnecessary anxiety and does not support the library’s core mission of being a portal to knowledge and resources for all.”

Moira Danehy, head of lending services at Greenwich Library, said she hopes the new policy will encourage patrons with inactive accounts to reactivate their cards, which can be done online or in person at the library.

“We believe this new policy is the best course of action, and we hope it encourages everyone to use the library and all that we have to offer,” Danehy said.

If it attracts more library patrons, puts more books in the hands of readers, and attracts crowds to library programs, “then it will be more than worth it to our community as a whole,” Ormerod- Glynn.

Library patrons will still be subject to replacement fees if something they borrow is damaged or lost, she said.

Additionally, the library will still be charging late fines on its museum pass program, which provides passes to area museums including the Bruce Museum, Stamford Museum & Nature Center, Intrepid, and the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in New York.

These passes are borrowed from the main office for three days, with a late fee of $1 per day.

The lack of fines could cause customers to keep documents out for long periods of time, especially when it comes to new releases with a waiting list of reserves, but Ormerod-Glynn said that they didn’t care.

“We know things happen and sometimes books and other materials will be returned past their due date,” she said. “But we also trust our customers and believe they will respect our materials and other members of the community.”

For more information or questions about the new policy, email [email protected]

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