No fines for Nevada County libraries
No fines works fine at Nevada County Library
For those who overlooked the due date for borrowed books from the county library, it will no longer cost anything to return them.
The Nevada County Community Library made it official last Friday that it’s no longer charging overdue fines. This is a permanent move intended to remove financial barriers that may prevent people from enjoying the library’s full benefits, said Nick Wilczek, the county librarian.
“Patrons are now free to check out items without the worry of being penalized for returning them a few days late,” said Wilczek.
The library will continue to charge fees for damaged or lost books, said Rachel Tucker, manager of the Madelyn Helling Library.
“We got the glue and liquid paper to make it work with in-house repairs,” said Tucker. “Patrons really appreciate no fines, especially as it has been a difficult time the last two years. The interactions are much more pleasant.”
The Madelyn Helling Library is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. It’s following CDC guidelines for the pandemic and does not require masks for those vaccinated. However, it does recommend masks for everyone.
In fact, it was the pandemic that prompted a temporary fine moratorium that is now permanent. Fifteen libraries in California have adopted the policy, including Sacramento and Sonoma.
The local library must still charge a processing fee and the replacement cost of lost books. Tucker urges anybody who misplaces a book to come in to see a staff member, as they do not want to discourage anyone from accessing the library.
“If anybody finds a book after reporting it lost, bring it in and tell the staff, because, you know, I found books under the bed months later. Nobody is perfect,” said Tucker.
The library maintains several branches across the county, including Bear River, Doris Foley, the Nevada County Law Library and the Grass Valley Royce Branch.
“By switching to a fine-free model, the library is able to better serve every member of the community by giving them greater access to library materials,” said Wilczek.
Library materials span the breadth of recorded music on CD, movies and TV programs on DVD, audio books, learning-to-go kits with toys for children, mental health kits that cover grief, anxiety, depression and PTSD, and a variety of books. The library also offers Wi-Fi hot spots, as well as laptops, which can only be used at the library.
Tucker said that until 2017 more than 90% of libraries charged overdue fines, but the trend is turning in the other direction, according to the trade publication Library Journal. While fines were used to help with operating expenses, on average fines and fees (printing, faxing, scanning) generated about 1.5% of a library’s operating budget.
Even for libraries still imposing fines, a number stopped them for children and teens. Tucker noted an informal online survey by the Library Think Tank states that 72% were opposed to fines, 14% were in favor while 14% believed fines should be waived for children.
Access has also gone digital. Residents can now download an app on their phones through directions on the county website that lists the entire catalog.
“I’m excited about the no overdue fines and I hope the community is, too,” said Tucker. “We always respond to things going on in the community and our goal is to serve their best interests. So, if anybody has suggestions, please reach out.”
“By switching to a fine-free model the library is able to better serve every member of the community by giving them greater access to library materials,” said Wilczek.
William Roller is a staff writer with The Union. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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