Gimme a C (for Collaboration!): Fine Free

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By Marcia Melkonian

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and the Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL) system have created a system-wide collaborative effort similar to those discussed in the now completed Public Library & School Library Collaboration Toolkit. There are three system-wide initiatives found in other parts of the nation described in the toolkit, but Los Angeles has cooperated in a way that is different. (You can view the other system-wide initiatives and many other programs that will fit any public or school district at

Where do you start on a project this big? In this case, LAPL originally approached LAUSD with a plan to issue Student Success Cards to every kindergartener the first year and grow the card disbursements from there. As LAPL and LAUSD discussed the details of the plan, it slowly became what it is, today.

  1. Every K-12 student in LAUSD–even those that are not within the zones covered by LAPL–will be issued a Student Success Card by the end of this academic year.
  2. The Student Success Card allows students to check out three print books or CD audio books at a time – not DVDs, music CDs, or magazines.
  3. There are no fines or fees associated with these cards.
  4. The bearer can log onto computers in any LAPL branch for two hours each day.
  5. All e-media and databases, including, are accessible with a Student Success Card.
LAPL student and teacher library cards

LAPL cards include Student Success Cards, standard cards, and Teacher Cards – but that is another blog.

Now, with a school liaison position created to oversee the program, LAPL has been testing out different methods of getting the cards to the students. They have tried sending them directly to the homes of students. This method resulted in a portion of the cards being returned as non-deliverable. The next method being tested is to deliver the cards to the schools for distribution within their classrooms. The whole rollout process is ongoing, so it is still too soon to make a final assessment of what succeeded and what did not.

What has been noted, though, is a growth of patrons who have outstanding fines on their regular library cards returning to the libraries to use the resources. There has been a noticeable bump in circulations, but it is too soon to visualize the total impact. What are visible are students who are excitedly entering the library, looking around, and imagining all the possibilities that are available at their fingertips.


Marcia Melkonian, M.Ed., MLIS is the Young Adult Librarian at the Pacoima Branch of the Los Angeles Public Libraries and a former Library Aide for multiple schools within the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Photo Credit: Marcia Melkonian

Author: Allison Barney, Chair of Interdivisional Committee on School/Public Library Cooperation

Categories: Blog Topics, Community/Teacher Collaboration, Student Engagement/ Teaching Models

1 reply

  1. This is beneficial programming, but be sure to loop in the school librarian, not just district administrators. School librarians are advocating for their own libraries and have often already established relationships with the local public librarians. Be sure that a certified school librarian serves as the liason for this collaboration, and include school librarians as partners as well. Don’t want this to be an rationale for eliminating school libraries, which many districts have. To use the sports analogy, students play club team sports outside of school, but they don’t eliminate the school team just because students also play the sport off campus.

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