How does everyone feel about school library fines for late and lost books? Until recently, I’ve been mostly okay with the concept, especially in middle and high schools, but now I find myself questioning the effectiveness of library fines.
Our current policy is ten cents a day for late books, maxing out at five dollars. Any student with fines or an overdue book cannot check out books until the fine is paid down to a dollar or below or the overdue book issue is resolved. Generally my co-librarian and I enforce this policy about half of the time. We’re constantly making exceptions to our own rules, because we want our students to read and have books.
As librarians we don’t have access to information regarding a student’s free and reduced status, and with 1,500 students sometimes we miss subtle indicators suggesting a student might be struggling with a late fee or lost book. Usually when we print out fine notices we ask classroom teachers to pull out notices for students who may not be able to pay, or have some other type of circumstance like homelessness or split homes, but classroom teachers don’t always have complete information either. Not everyone is forthcoming about having financial, emotional, or general difficulties and some students have learned to hide their hardships.
Even though we try to be proactive, I can’t help wonder how many students don’t use the library because they cannot pay a library fine. This presents an accessibility issue since we cannot be entirely sure we are waiving fines for every student who is unable to pay, and some students would feel uncomfortable knowing they had a fine and knowing the librarians waived the fine due to a hardship.
I’m more concerned with getting books returned, and getting them back on time because other students are usually waiting for books that are checked out. Right now library fines serve as a consequence for limiting another student’s access to a specific book, but I’m open to other options.
In regards to lost books, we try to be as lenient as possible. We’ll accept used trades and paperbacks from Amazon for a library bound book, and we usually give students as long as they need to look for the book and come to terms with the fact that the book is truly lost. Many times we’ll even look for a cheaper version of the book if the price in our computer seems excessive.
I’m really interested in how a no late fines school library operates. Do you charge for lost books? Do you have other penalties for late books, and has going fine free drastically impacted your budget or spending? I’m going to have to sell my co-librarian on it, but I want to play around with our library’s fine policy and make sure we’re providing support and access for those students who need it the most.
Author: Mica Johnson
I’m a school librarian at Farragut Middle. I like the lib to be loud, messy, and full of student activity. I love tech stuff as much as I love books, and I’m part of an awesome rotating maker space.