The 411 on Changes to Our Fines and Fees

May 04, 2017
Written by cmcguire
Starting Sunday, May 7, Koha, the library software shared by 46 libraries in northeast Kansas, including the Leavenworth Public Library, will automatically block a parent’s card if fines or fees on their child’s card exceed $10. Koha is open source software used in library networks all over the world. The automatic blocking tweak was bought and paid for by the government of Sweden but it will affect some library users in all Koha libraries.   
Sweden’s motivation is easy to understand. They run a national library system and have a problem with parents using their kids’ cards to run up fines or fees for lost items and never paying them. The kids are stuck with blocked cards while mom and dad go down the road to a different library and do the same thing. This is not a Swedish issue. It happens in the good old USA too. It is a responsibility issue.
It will be easy for parents or guardians to remove a block on their card if it occurs. Simply pay enough to reduce the fine total on your kids’ cards to below $10 and everything will be back to normal. Paying off all the fines would be even better. That would lower the risk of your card getting blocked again if your kids don’t return items on time.
All this talk about fines and fees comes uncomfortably close to the movie and TV stereotype of crabby librarians chasing down nickels and dimes. You might think about us that way if you end up paying a quarter to get fines under $10 so you can use your card again. There is another side to that coin.
We do everything possible to not collect nickels and dimes. It’s no fun for us. We have a 24-hour grace period that gives patrons an extra fine-free day to bring back their material. Items can be renewed online or over the phone (as long as another patron has not placed a hold on an item). Fines are set low so they don’t cause any hardship. We run food for fines campaigns, forgave fines for kids attending Leavenworth schools during Library Card Sign up month last September. In 2015, we lowered fines on DVDs from 50¢ to 10¢ a day. We changed the rule that blocked cards that carried any fine balance longer than one year. Now a card can be used forever if the total fine amount is under $10. If a patron tells us they received an overdue notice on an item they are sure they returned, we scour the library twice to make sure it didn’t slip past us without being checked in. We clear the fines if we find the item.
So if your card is blocked, please remember how easy it is to fix the problem. Don’t forget how much we do to prevent any fines from getting out of control. Free and easy library relationships are best for patrons, library staff and life in general.