WELLINGTON — Herrick Memorial Library is eliminating late fees for a 6-month trial period beginning Tuesday.
The intent is to remove the barriers that keep people from using the library and thank the community for the passage of a 1.25-mill levy.
Library Director Janet Hollingsworth said the library brings in about $10,000 per year through late fees but loses about $80,000 from items not being returned.
For example, Hollingsworth said, the library has bought a DVD box set of “American Horror Story” three times this year because it keeps going missing.
“We will be losing (that $10,000) but if we have our materials back, it’s not really losing so much because we don’t have to spend money on replacing them,” Hollingsworth said.
During the trial period, there will be due dates on items but instead of a late fee, people who do not return or renew by the due date will not be allowed to check out additional materials or use the library’s internet computers until the items are returned.
The library will continue to contact patrons with an overdue notice and send a bill for the replacement cost if an item is lost. After a period of time, the bill will be turned over to a collection agency and assessed an additional $10 fee.
The library also will continue to charge for materials that are damaged.
Hollingsworth said she wants to reduce the stigma or embarrassment people feel with big fines as that acts as a barrier for the materials getting returned.
“It happens to all of us,” Hollingsworth said. “We want to take away that stigma. We want them to come in and say, ‘I found these things and I need to pay for them,’ and we’ll accept them and say ‘you don’t owe us anything.’ We just very much want to make our library accessible and friendly.”
Another thing that’s changing is the library staff will no longer allow people to use a library card other than their own. Hollingsworth said sometimes parents will use their children’s or spouses card and that will not be allowed anymore.
Hollingsworth said this is because sometimes a child will be saddled with late fees from a parent and prevented from taking out items, and the library wants to stop that from happening.
Hollingsworth said she studied similar policies in Grafton and New London, which also are doing away with late fees for a trial period.
“New London library, whose budget is much smaller, they say they’re getting their stuff back,” Hollingsworth said.