The Pickerington Public Library will eliminate fines on overdue items beginning Nov. 23, according to library officials.

In a move officials said they hope will be customer-friendly and provide continued library access to those with small to moderate overdue charges, the library leadership has decided to waive overdue fines altogether.

The new policy goes into effect Nov. 23, and library Director Tony Howard said it should minimize the impact of overdue fines on customers, while not negatively harming the library's bottom line.

"This change allows us remove a financial barrier for some patrons, while still holding library-users accountable for materials they borrow," Howard said.

Rather than imposing fines for overdue items, the library will defer to its "longstanding policy" of blocking library cards of patrons who have materials 30 days or more overdue.

The block prevents the patron from checking out more physical items until the long overdue materials have been returned.

Additionally, if an overdue item is not returned within 30 days of its due date, it is deemed lost and the patron is charged a replacement fee.

That fee would be removed if and when the patron returns the item.

The library will continue to use regular patron notices to see overdue materials returned and a materials recovery agency to pursue debts from lost or damaged items. Patrons with cards blocked for long overdue materials still will be able to access e-books, reserve meeting rooms and use library computers.

"It will also increase access to materials, create a more positive patron experience and save staff time and costs associated with fines," Howard said of the new policy.

"The library's hope is that now more books will end up in the hands of more people -- especially young readers."

The library does not rely on the revenue generated from overdue fines, Howard said.

In fact, overdue fines make up just 1.05 percent of the library's overall budget.

In 2016 the library collected $19,350.45 in overdue fines. Its total 2016 budget was approximately $1.84 million.

Within the last decade, library trends have shifted on the subject of overdue fines and library professionals have questioned whether they are an effective.

Howard noted the Delaware County District Library, Worthington Libraries, the Columbus Metropolitan Library, Bexley Public Library and the Westerville Public Library all have eliminated fines.

"The whole point of auto renewal, student cards and becoming a fines-free library is to increase access to materials, create a more positive patron experience and allow patrons to avoid significant financial burdens while also saving staff time and costs associated with fines," Howard said.

"We feel the savings in staff time and goodwill toward our patrons is where the largest adjustments will be for the library," he said.

Patrons with existing overdue fines will still be required to pay them because those fines cannot be removed from all customer accounts in bulk.

However, Howard said, library administrators will institute "creative approaches to help those patrons."

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