The Columbus Metropolitan Library system will stand to lose more than $370,000 a year after it eliminates fines for overdue materials Jan. 1.

The Columbus Metropolitan Library system will stand to lose more than $370,000 a year after it eliminates fines for overdue materials Jan. 1.

In return, the library system hopes for more dedicated customers who want to finish their books, DVDs and other checked-out items without worrying about accruing financial penalties, said Ben Zenitsky, spokesman for the library system.

"It is a significant amount of money," Zenitsky said of the lost revenue, "but our goal is to make sure our customers are able to access the material they want and need.

"We want to get more material in the hands of customers."

The library system has been on this course since 2012, when it reduced daily fine rates and maximum fines.

In 2014, the library introduced auto renewal, meaning it renews items automatically as long as no other customers have requested them. It also debuted fine-exempt Kids Cards.

"We believe that overdue fines should not be a deterrent for customers, especially children, wanting to check out books and other library materials," said Patrick Losinski, Columbus Metropolitan Library CEO.

The library doesn't rely on the money fines, Zenitsky said, adding the move is not unprecedented. For example, Worthington Libraries eliminated overdue fines earlier this year, he said.

Safeguards, however, will remain in place to protect the system's collection, Zenitsky said.

Those who keep items 21 days after the due date will have their cards blocked, preventing them from checking out additional material.

An item kept past 35 days will be deemed lost and customers will be charged to replace it.

Those who currently owe fines aren't off the hook. Overdue penalties still are owed to the library -- but exceptions will be considered on a case-by-case basis, Zenitsky said.

"What we said to our staff is: Use your best judgment," he said.

"If a customer comes in and it's an issue where a child lost a book, I think we can be more forgiving of those fines."

gseman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekGary