BELOIT—The Beloit Public Library will not charge fines for youth and young adult or teen materials effective today, according to Beloit Public Library (BPL) Marketing and Communications Coordinator Amy Mitchell.
“We are hoping to remove some of the shame people feel when it comes to fines,” Mitchell said. “People feel embarrassed about it.”
“Beloit Public Library continues to be the community’s leader in early literacy efforts,” said Beloit Public Library Director Nick Dimassis. “This is one more way we are putting students and their families first. For those for whom even a few dollars might be enough to prevent them from checking out books, this is an important initiative in opening the world of learning to all children.”
The move kicks off National Library week, April 4-10.
Mitchell said the library board approved a policy change effectively eliminating fines on materials for youth and young adults on March 17. It doesn’t matter if the materials are on an adult or child’s card.
When the new rule took effect, all pending fines on youth and young adult materials also were removed. Before the change, patrons could be charged a fine of 10 to 25 cents a day up to a maximum of $5 for each book returned after its due date. This new rule only applies to fines. Fees still will accrue for items that are lost or damaged. Items that are long overdue will be considered lost and billed for replacement; the return of those materials immediately removes charges from an account.
This policy change includes picture books, board books, easy readers, chapter books, audio books, magazines, movies and music.
Mitchell said the fines prevented some socioeconomic groups from borrowing as they were scared of potential fines.
“We want to make sure we get the valuable materials in the hands of families and kids and remove any barriers,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell said there are generally about $11,000 to $12,000 in fines for youth and young adults that are outstanding.
“Typically in a year we would only receive $4,000 of that back,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell said a lot of libraries are moving in a similar direction as the fines create an economic barrier to library services.
Library fines disproportionately affect patrons in lower-income areas, and subsequently deter those who need the library the most from using free resources such as WiFi, computers, resume help, homework help, lifelong learning, and workforce development support.
Numbers of people at the library have picked up in the past month. Mitchell said increased interest began in February when the library began offering its new program room for families to reserve which has been well received. Many of the activity centers from under the reading tree have been moved into the program room.
“We can bring in games and laptops or crafts. Families appreciate the feeling they are going out and doing something and being safe,” Mitchell said.
The Stateline Literacy Council and Blackhawk Technical College (BTC) also have been operating in their new space in the building.
“One of the focuses for BTC has been GED classes. Those are available via open enrollment. As people notice the space, they can walk over and start classes. The students have really liked the location and feel it’s a good fit,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell said the library continues strict cleaning and sanitization protocols. Its furniture has been reupholstered with medical grade fabric which makes it easier to clean during COVID-19.