Schenectady County Legislature asks library system to get rid of late fees – The Daily Gazette

SCHENECTADY – If the elimination of late fees is implemented by the Schenectady County Public Library system, approximately 12,000 patrons who owe $5 or more would regain access to books and use of the computer through the library system.

The county legislature on Thursday approved a resolution asking the library system board to eliminate late fees.

“As we all know, libraries spread joy,” said Legislator Sara Mae Pratt, D-Glenville, Niskayuna, Scotia. “They provide useful information. They create a sense of community and encourage a love of reading from an early age. When patrons start racking up fines and fees, they become less likely to visit libraries. Imposing fines tends to alienate the people in our community who benefit most from free library resources.

The county has been considering eliminating the fee for a few years, said Erin Roberts, county communications director. She said when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the idea was pushed to the fore. The New York Public Library is just one of many libraries that have eliminated late fees.

“This decision will also bring SCPL into line with the other libraries in the Mohawk Valley Library System that we share resources with,” Roberts said.

Fines collected by the library were used to offset operating costs, Roberts said. However, the amount raised is only a small portion of the library system’s $6.5 million annual budget.

Here is the detail of the fines collected from 2018 to 2021:

  • 2018: $98,783.28
  • 2019: $92,631.17
  • 2020: $18,643.73
  • 2021: $30,374.71

Pratt said eliminating the fee will provide “equitable access to all residents.”

“Studies have shown that small fines have no impact or rate of return,” she said. “Users will still be responsible for returning items to the library in a timely manner, but fines are not in line with the core mission of libraries, which is to provide the public with information and knowledge. It is not the role of the library to demand accountability. The role of the library is to encourage lifelong learning, exploration and innovation. Our community is stronger and healthier when people have access to the programs, services and materials they need to pursue their education, career, family and life goals.

Lawmaker Omar Sterling McGill, D-Schenectady, said he was pleased to support the initiative.

“No one should be kept informed,” he said at the Legislative Assembly meeting. “I think it’s important that we give everyone the opportunity to keep learning and I think by doing that it will open the door for a lot of people.”

Roberts said county officials anticipate library systems will have a new policy in place to assess replacement costs for lost or non-returned items.

“Specific policy guidelines must be drafted and approved by the SCPL Board of Directors before any changes take effect,” Roberts said.

The Board of Directors meets on March 24.

Journalist Shenandoah Brière can be reached at [email protected]

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Categories: News, Schenectady, Schenectady County, Scotia Glenville, Your Niskayuna

Donald E. Patel