Wasatch County Council Has First Reading Of Resolution That Would Eliminate Library Late Fees

Wasatch County Council had a first reading of a resolution that would eliminate overdue fees for the county library.

At their March 4th meeting Wasatch County Council unanimously approved a first reading of a resolution that would eliminate late fees for overdue library materials. The resolution was brought to the council by Wasatch County Library Director Juan Lee. Lee explained that previously the library has aggressively pursued collecting late fees for overdue items and as a result of that policy, fewer people are using the library. Lee says the policy has especially decreased use from those with less financial resources who still pay for the library through their taxes.

“In consulting with other libraries around the state, we have found that many have implemented fine free policies for several years now,” Lee explained. “So, we’re a little bit behind the curve. Our neighbors in Duchesne County, Uintah County, Summit County, and Park City have already implemented fine free policy’s.”

The policy change was approved by the library board before making its way to the council. Lee explains the protocol that would replace the current system of assessing fees for overdue items.

“As good stewards we’ll still check out the items and send a notice through email a couple of days before an item is due,” Lee continued. “If the item is not returned, two weeks later we send a second notice saying, ‘Hey you may have forgotten about this.’ Later, another notice gets sent, ‘you have had this item overdue for six weeks.’ At that point we send a notice that we need to purchase an item, so we charge the patron. If the item is brought back, nothing is charged, and the item goes back to the collection.”

Lee says a study by Salt Lake City after implementing the fine free program showed some interesting results.

“Items were coming back at just about the same rate as before,” Lee said. “Folks that are used to bringing back items on time, were on time. Folks that forgot a few days, they still brought them back a few days late. There was no major changes. There was also a thought that perhaps there would be an increase on the items that were never returned, or never came back, that was not the case. However, it was the case that a lot of folks were coming back saying, ‘you know I haven’t been back to the library for some time. I need to renew my card.’”

Lee says the hope is that the change will bring back more residents who have stopped using the library, especially children. Wasatch County Council members asked Lee how the library is evolving in a digital age. He said that there are fewer physical materials bought and more digital resources instead.

“The waiting list are unfortunately rather long for those digital items,” Lee explained. “You think they are the same price as physical materials, or cheaper, because they are easier to produce? No, they’re more expensive. We have seen a very heavy use of leisure materials. Back in the 80s there was a very heavy emphasis on informational materials, nonfiction material, science, engineering, those kinds of things. A lot of folks are gathering information in many other ways now. So, we do see quite a dramatic decrease in that type of reading. We’re adjusting our collection accordingly, but leisure reading it’s still as robust as it has been.”

At the same meeting, Wasatch County Council approved their MOU with Heber Light & Power. The MOU will involve a five-acre land swap. Both properties are near the county fairgrounds.

Read the original story at KPCW.org