New policy likely to end late fees at Warsaw Library

The era of late fees is about to come to an end in Warsaw.

Warsaw Community Public Library’s board of directors reviewed a proposal Monday to eliminate the fine policy and could adopt the change in September.

Warsaw library officials say they’ve learned from other libraries that fines are not effective in assuring the  prompt return of the materials.

Elimination of late fees policy has been a trend for libraries elsewhere for years and Assistant Director Joni Brookins believes it is the “wave of the future.”

Brookins outlined several benefits to the change in policy.

Existing fines give patrons a reason not to visit the library.

Eliminating fines is also expected to be a relief for library staff who have to work with patrons on the issue, Brookins said.

It’s also an attempt to be customer friendly in a digital environment that offers more alternatives.

“If there is anything that creates a barrier, they will not return,” said Library Director Ann Zydek.

The financial loss is expected to be minimal. According to library paperwork, a fund that holds primarily fine revenues was about $45,000 in 2017.

The new policy will likely go into effect Oct. 1.
Patrons will still face fines for materials that are never returned or materials that are damaged.

Brookins suggested  Warsaw follow a policy they saw used by the Noble County Library which asked that patrons come in and request to have existing fines waived and provide an ID.

“It gets the person back in the building and hopefully, once that’s done, they’ll take a look around,” Brookins said.

Other libraries that have ceased late fees include some near Chicago. “They had a resurgence in checkouts,” Zydek said. “There’s a lot of good things that came out as a result.”

Library board member Tim Keyes, who oversees the library collection at Ivy Tech, concurred with the belief that fines are ineffective. Ivy Tech did away with its fine policy several years ago.

Keyes said they came to believe the fines did not make a difference in the willingness to return items, and he voiced support for Brookins’ proposal.

The library will undergo a publicity campaign to alert the public about the policy change after it is approved.

In other matters, the board approved plans for an architectural firm to submit drawings to the state to replace the service elevator, also known as the LULA. The review is done by an office within the state’s homeland security department

Once the state approves of the plan, the library board will seek bids for installation of a new elevators.

SRKM Architecture, of Warsaw, will oversee the project.

Concerns about the cost of the project were reduced after officials realized they could replace the existing elevator without dedicating a much larger space for the new one.

Zydek said she thinks the cost of the project will be around $150,000, and that construction could begin next spring.

The board also approved a change in annual user fees. The annual individual fee will rise from $86 to $92; the annual part-year individual fee will rise from $21 to $23. The annual family fee will change from $215 to $230.