Almost every patron of the American public library system has had to face the dreaded overdue book fee. Whether the fee is a few cents a day, or a dollar a week, every library patron knows that library materials must be returned or renewed by the due date or the fees start accumulating and the library card could be blocked.
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Library fees have long been used as a source of income for many cash-strapped library systems. However, as more and more people are facing tough economic times, both library patrons and the library system are contesting the concept of implementing a fine for overdue books.
Some libraries have met the public’s demand and eliminated the overdue book fee, while others continue to operate on a system that has worked for years. Here is a look at some of the supporting arguments for why a library overdue book fee should or should not be implemented.
For the Fine: It Helps Keep Materials Flowing from Patron to Patron
Library fine supporters believe that implementing a library fee for overdue materials encourages people to return books and movies on time. When the materials are returned on time, they can go to other patrons who are waiting to read or watch the materials. It is argued that no library fee would not entice people to return materials quickly, and could cause wait times for books and movies to increase dramatically.
Against the Fine: Tax Money Goes to the Library, so Why Pay
Most public library systems were established using taxpayer money. Library patrons who are against the library fine believe that because their tax money went to establishing the library, there is no reason they should be fined for returning a book a few days late.
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For the Fine: Helps Develop a Budget for New Materials
Libraries are facing extreme budget cuts. Supporters of the overdue book fine argue that implementing the fine gives libraries a way to generate a form of income. Even though it might be a few cents a day, the money can quickly add up and can be used to purchase new books, movies and other materials for the library collection.
Against the Fine: Collecting the Money is Tough
Library resources are already stretched to the limit. Patrons against the fine argue that those precious resources are being used to collect the library fines. Many libraries will issue warnings, send letters through the mail, and even take library patrons to court if a fine has not been paid. This whole process can sometimes cost the library more money than what they would get from the fines.
The argument regarding whether a library should or should not implement an overdue book fine is one that will continue as long as there is a public library system. Libraries must make the decision to fine for overdue materials based on the interest of the public and the entire library system.