Northland News

Library changes fee structure for overdue items

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Starting Oct. 1, the Columbus Metropolitan Library will reduce fines for late DVD returns and roll back the charges accrued for overdue material.

At the same time, the library system will increase the borrowing period for DVDs from five to seven days. And the number of renewals allowed for all material has increased from five to 10.

While library officials acknowledge that fines help encourage customers to return materials on time and protect the collection, they recast the fine structure because of the wider availability of inexpensive DVDs, said Kim Snell, spokeswoman for the Columbus system.

"The initial purpose for charging higher fines for DVDs than books was because DVDs were more expensive and because we purchased fewer copies of each item," she said. "But this isn't really true any more. The cost for all the materials is nearly the same."

All fines for overdue adult materials -- books, CDs, DVDs -- will be 20 cents per day. Currently, the library charges 20 cents for books and CDs, and $1.25 per day for overdue DVDs.

All fines for overdue juvenile materials will be 10 cents per day. The library now charges 10 cents for books and CDs, and $1.25 per day for overdue DVDs.

Another significant change is that all any one adult item can accrue in late fees will be $5. Now, any one item can accrue up to $15 in fees. That will change for youth patrons, too. The most any one juvenile item can accrue in late fees will be $1. For the time being, any one item can accrue up to $15 in fees.

And the borrowing period for all books will change to 21 days. Popular book releases now must be returned after 14 days and those in less demand, 28 days.

What will not change is that cards will be blocked and customers will not be able to check out any materials if they have $10 or more in late fees, Snell said.

"The goal of the library is to get our materials into the hands of as many customers as we can," she said. "We believe lowering our fines will help ensure fewer customers are blocked from checking out books due to large fine balances from DVDs."

The library received about $1.5 million annually from late fees and fines for damaged material, Snell said.

"It sounds like a big figure, but with regard to our budget, it's about 2 percent," Snell said. "So it's not like a major contributor to our revenue stream."

Still in the discussion phase is a plan to eliminate a daily fine system in favor of a flat fine system, the timeline and dollar amount to be determined, Snell said. The board isn't expected to vote on that issue until next summer, she said.

Greg Denby, who manages the Whetstone and North Side branches, said the changes are good for both patrons and the library system.

"Our goal is to make sure the people get the materials we have," he said. "We like to see everything we have available here used."

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