7-Imp has a great Day 4 Share a Story-Shape a Future conversation between Jules and Adrienne Furness from What Adrienne Thinks About That about making libraries work for patrons. She touches on a number of issues that often keep people from feeling comfortable about using the library - and fines is one of them.
I have thought off and on about fines and their impact over the years but didn't think too much about the impact it was having on people's feelings about the library. Then one day, I was talking with a parenting coach about how we can increase library use. She said that many families she worked with were afraid to use the library because of fines. That caught me up short. I can understand not liking fines or the idea of fines. But fines as a self-made choice to stop using the library. Whoa! My eyes popped open!
I asked her if she thought her families purchased books, DVD's or CD's. She said yes all of the families she worked with owned materials in their home. I talked a bit about how a family's fines on a monthly or semi-annual basis rarely equaled the cost of a new book or CD or two or three. The fines help with our budgets and do help get materials back to us. And we are always willing to negotiate when we can to keep the materials flowing from the library into people's hands. I also mentioned that no family could afford to have the variety, depth and breadth of materials that their tax-supported public library provides.
It gave me an opportunity to think about what libraries provide and a chance for my colleague to consider some other information to provide to her families to encourage them to conquer their fear. And it humbled me to think about what a barrier those darn fines can be. It started me sharing with patrons my own fine-filled life (oh, like fines on most of my stuff all the time - except now I'll be better with Library Elf thanks to Adrienne!) and that it was ok not to be perfect on that stuff. And it points me in the direction of what to say to non-users to ease their fears at least and have them thinking about using us.