The Caldwell County Public Library is beginning a program that will erase all of patrons’ past library fines in what is the Library’s first ever, all-encompassing amnesty program. It’s called Fine-Free February.
The reason? To encourage anyone who may feel that they are unable to use the library because of an outstanding fine or fee, to return to the library and actively engage in the free programs and resources available.
“A financial burden should never impede access to information and resources,” explains Lesley Mason, Library Director. “We’ve made several circulation and access policy changes this year and my goal is to celebrate our new, more inclusive policies with this amnesty program. Everyone deserves a fresh start!”
If patrons still have the overdue or lost item, they are encouraged to bring them in to the Library in February without penalty. If they no longer have the item, they are encouraged to come back for a fresh start. In addition, no fines or fees will be assessed to any patron during the month of February 2017.
Amnesty programs are enacted periodically in libraries large and small all over the country, with similar goals, to encourage the community to reconnect with the library.
“We want people to use the library and we absolutely know that fines can be a barrier,” says State Librarian of North Carolina, Cal Shepard. “I think it’s great that Caldwell County Public Library is reaching out to their community. The library of today has so any exciting things available. We aren’t just books. I hope that residents will come back and rediscover the many new resources and services the library has to offer.”
It's a common misconception that libraries rely on fines for funding. Overdue fines represent a fraction of the incoming revenue obligation to the county and are not a line item in the budget for the Library. Many of the fines and fees in the Caldwell County Library records are held by juveniles and by individuals who haven’t used the library in years. Many appear to be outstanding accounts held by individuals who either no longer live in the community or have passed away.
The Library currently lists 13,513 patrons with outstanding fines or fees associated with their account. Of those, 11,367 are expired accounts and 3,486 are juvenile accounts. Of the total, 8,580 have fines or fees that are under $10. Five hundred and one accounts list fines and fees over $100. The Library’s largest outstanding fine is 583.71 and that account expired in 2012. The oldest outstanding account is from 1996.
In addition to creating a fresh start for patrons, Caldwell County is also using this amnesty plan to update Library accounts as well.
“Anyone who has been inactive for more than 3 years will have their records purged from our system,” says Mason. “This clean slate will help us formulate an accurate benchmark for active library participants. This is a great time to come into the library to update your account, get a library card if you don’t already have one, or just learn more about the wide variety of free resources and programs available to everyone in our area.”
For more information, contact LouAnne Kincaid, Caldwell County Public Information Officer at 828-759-7879 or Lesley Mason, Director, Caldwell County Public Library AT 828-757-1288.