library policies

  •  Girl Reading

    Earlier this week we excitedly announced that starting July 1st there will no longer be overdue fines for children’s materials! We’ve had some questions about this change and wanted to give the answers here.

    Q: Why are you eliminating fines on children's materials?

    A: It's easy: we want children to read. We know that life with children is hectic and sometimes it's hard to get to the library on time; we also know that it's not unusual for a child to have many books checked out at once and so late fees add up quickly. We would hate for a family to stop using the library because they feel they cannot afford it.  

    Q: But how will you make sure that the books come back?

    A: We will still have due dates on all library materials and we do still expect people to return items on time.  If a book is one month overdue it will be marked lost and the patron will be charged for the full cost of the item. We will still charge for lost or damaged books. If the book is returned, we will waive the "lost" fee. 

    Q: Does this apply to everything for children? 

    A: Almost everything; we will continue to charge late fees for Discovery Kits as they are a high-demand specialty item. But books, DVDs, and books on CD from the children's collection will all be fee exempt.  

    Q: Why just children's materials? Why not go fine free for everything? 

    A: This could be such a long answer, but it boils down to this: our readers of children's materials and our readers of adult/teen materials just behave differently. Our collections move differently. Adults and teens are more likely to want specific titles--the next in a series, the next from their favorite author--and so we find that we have long holds lists for lots of items. We have found that late fees for those materials provide a great incentive to bring things back and help us keep high-demand materials moving. 

    However, many children do not consume books in this way. They might want 50 picture books about dinosaurs, but many times they don't care about which 50 picture books about dinosaurs they have. We have found that having these materials returned a few days late does not negatively impact another patron's ability to enjoy the library (we have enough books about dinosaurs to satisfy many future paleontologists).  

    Q. Won't this make hold lists for kid's chapter books super long?

    A. This is a valid concern and a big part of why the policy change only applies to children's books right now. We've been watching data for several years now from libraries around that country that have instituted similar policies who have found that their patrons still return things in a timely manner. It just gives a little more grace when people forget or have complications come up. Most patrons still want to return their items on time or close to on time because they know other people are waiting. And many libraries have even found people are more likely to bring things back than before, because fear of fines they couldn't afford had previously kept them from ever returning with that book they'd had out too long. We're hopeful that will be the case here.

    We're committed to this not being a system that unintentionally penalizes, in this way, the patrons who always would have returned their materials on time, though. We'll continue monitoring hold lists for popular items, the way we currently do for all library materials, and will buy extra copies as needed to keep the holds/copy ratio low.

    Q: Okay, that makes sense. Do you have anything exciting to announce for adult and teen users?

    A: Thanks for asking! We wanted to talk about this in a previous question above, but that answer was getting too long. We are excited to announce that we're also instituting automatic renewals for library materials.  You have always been able to renew library materials, but we have turned on automatic renewals to save you a step. As long as no one has requested an item, it will automatically renew for you on the due date for an additional three weeks. Since each item may be renewed twice, this means that you could potentially have up to nine weeks to finish that 40-hour epic fantasy book on CD (as long as no one else has requested it). You can see how many times the item as been renewed by logging into your online library account from our website. 

    Q: What if you put a hold on a children’s book, how will that affect the book being returned?

    A: If you put a hold on a children's book that is currently checked out to someone else, that book will not automatically renew to them, and they will be expected to return the book on its original due date. The only change here is that they won't be fined at that point, but they will still receive the usual repeated reminders to return it. Once that book has been overdue for a month, it will be considered lost and the patron will be charged for it. BUT if they return it after that, we'll waive that fine. We're hoping some long-lost books will make their way back home this way.

    Like we mentioned in the last answer, we’ll be watching hold lists carefully and buying more copies as needed when the ratio of holds per copy gets too high. 

    Q: Is this going to affect the library's budget?

    A: Short answer? Yes. It will be a significant budget shortfall. We've made some adjustments; we think it's worth it to keep kids reading.  

  • Library Photo

    With its new fiscal year, the Provo City Library is closing the book on a long-held library practice: charging fines on late books and materials for children. Effective July 1, the Library will stop charging fees on children’s materials that are returned past their due date.

    Gene Nelson, Library Director, has been thinking about this move for quite some time. “Every librarian who has worked in a Children’s Department has heard some variation of this conversation between a parent and child: ‘I’m sorry, we just can’t check out books today; we can’t afford the late fees.’ It breaks your heart to hear that a child’s access to library books is a financial decision. That’s not what we’re about.”  

    According to Joella Peterson Bagshaw, Children’s Services Manager, the motivation behind lifting fines on late materials is simple: get books in the hands of Provo’s children. “In going fine-free for children's materials we are making materials more accessible for our youngest library patrons. We are helping families who have tight budgets and limited free time know that they are valued. We want children to have every opportunity to learn, grow, and succeed.”  

    “As a father of six kids, I know that sometimes things go missing,” Nelson notes. “They disappear under a couch, under a bed, in a toy box. We don’t ever want a late fee to be the reason that a child can’t check out books.”  

    But without due dates, how does the Library make sure that people return materials? “Going fine-free doesn’t mean it’s a complete free-for-all,” notes Erika Hill, Community Relations Coordinator. “People are still responsible for returning books, and if a book is out for too long we will assume it’s lost.” Patrons will still be charged for lost or damaged materials (though if a lost item is returned then those fees will be waived).  

    It is important to note that this change only applies to materials in the children’s collection; adult and teen materials, along with specialty items like telescopes, board games, cameras, and more will still have fines if they are returned late. To help patrons avoid late fees on those materials, the Library has also introduced an automatic renewal policy. As long no other patrons have requested an item, it will be automatically renewed up to two times to avoid late fees.   

    Though there will be a financial impact for the Library, Director Gene Nelson notes that the benefits to the community outweigh the revenue loss. “Across the nation, we’ve seen that when fines go down, circulation goes up. When we eliminate fines on the children’s collection, we gain more than we lose.”