January 23, 2011

Late fines at library eliminated

Librarian says fees are ‘relic of the past’

By Betty Adams
Staff Writer

WINTHROP -- Slightly overdue library books? It's fine. You can now return them without paying a penalty.

The trustees of Charles M. Bailey Public Library voted last week to eliminate fines for late material.

However, if an item is 30 days past due, the library would charge to replace the material. Overdue fines will remain on the very popular e-readers.

"Basically, we are abolishing overdue fines in favor of item replacement charges if items don't come back," librarian Richard Fortin said.

In the past, the library collected about $100 a month in overdue fines.

"My goal is to encourage and increase library usage," Fortin said. "I believe that fines are a relic of the past. As libraries shed the 'shushing' mentality, draconian policies should follow. We don't see the same 'NO beverages, NO cellphones, NO chat rooms' signage. We don't expect permanent silence, and I don't expect overdue fines that makeup less than 1 percent of our revenue from our members."

Previously, patrons could donate canned goods in November instead of paying fines. Fortin said the library still will accept donations year-round and will suggest making a donation for late returns.

"I am reframing the conversation at Bailey to focus on residents who aren't coming into the library and moving away from a 'getting the patron' mentality," Fortin said.

Since Fortin, of Augusta, became library director in April 2010, circulation numbers have doubled, with website traffic up from 1,000 to 2,500 unique hits per month and 400 new patrons signed up.

He also started a program that lends Kindles -- a type of electronic device that can store thousands of books -- in August. The library also offers downloadable books for other electronic readers and mobile devices.

The library is located on Bowdoin Street.

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