Libraries get creative for fine collections

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Overdue library materials can cost local libraries thousands of dollars a year to replace.

Last year, the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County collected $147,000 in fines. That amount includes materials lost, damaged or just never returned.

“There were 6,000-plus items assessed with what we call replacement fees, which means the patron has to pay to replace the cost of the materials, that were never paid,” said Gary Simon, technical services director for the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County.

That’s one of the reasons the library system is offering a second chance card to those who are blocked from using the library because of outstanding fines. The conditional card allows patrons to pay down their fines while still being able to use the library.

Anyone who owes the library between $10 and $300 could be eligible for a conditional library card. Cardholders must make an initial payment of $5 or 10 percent of the total amount owed. The full balance is due within two years.

“So this really helps the customer who maybe experienced unemployment. They need to look for a job but they can’t look for a job or submit a resume because they need access to our computers and so this way we can work with them,” said library director Heidi Daniel.

The program starts Thursday.

Daniel said the library has to balance the desire to work with patrons to pay off their fines with meeting the library’s budget because unpaid fines can affect the library system’s bottom line.

The Newton Falls Public Library is planning a food drive for March as part of a fine forgiveness program to get back some of the materials that have been off the shelves and help people pay down their fines.  Between March 3 and March 29, patrons can drop off non-perishable food items in exchange for fine elimination.

Newton Falls Public Library Director Kerry Reed said it costs time and money to send out notices about overdue library materials. She said just being able to recoup the items helps because the library sends out three notices to patrons and spends approximately $50 per week in notifications.

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