September 22, 2021

Baltimore: The Enoch Pratt Free Library is Eliminating Overdue Fines for Customers on All Pratt-Owned Materials

Official Announcement

From the the Enoch Pratt Free Library:

2018-06-04_09-15-35The Enoch Pratt Free Library is proud to announce the elimination of overdue fines for customers on all Pratt-owned materials.  The Pratt Library is one of the first major urban libraries on the East Coast to waive overdue fines, and the first in the state of Maryland.

“As a public library, our top goal is to provide equal access to information, services and opportunities for all,” says Pratt Library President & CEO Heidi Daniel.  “We know fines are a barrier to access for thousands of Baltimore city residents.  We want to break down that barrier for them.”

More than 13,000 current Pratt customers have borrowing privileges revoked due to unpaid fines.

Starting June 4, if materials are returned to the library, all fines will be waived. Materials borrowed from other systems through inter-library loan are not applicable. Fees will still apply for lost or damaged materials.  “Overdue fines account for less than one quarter of one percent of the Library’s average annual budget,” says Pratt Chief Operating Officer Gordon Krabbe. “We spend more trying to collect the fines.  This is a policy that just makes sense.”

“I’ve seen parents tell children not to take out library books because they fear having fines they can’t pay,” says Daniel. “We want to ease those financial worries and welcome everyone back to their library.”

From the Baltimore Sun

[Pratt Library President & CEO Heidi] Daniel said other libraries that have done away with fines — in Salt Lake City, Columbus, Ohio, and Nashville, Tenn. — report higher circulation but little difference in unreturned materials. The Pratt’s circulation has fallen in recent years, from 1.16 million in 2015 to 991,000.

Daniel said analysis by the Pratt and other libraries shows that fining customers affects lower-income users disproportionately, and punishes children who might have limited control over returning books on time. About 2,500 of the Pratt’s blocked cards belong to children and teens.

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Five percent of the Pratt’s 290,000 active users are blocked due to fines. About 26,000 items, or 1.5 percent of the Pratt’s materials, are considered lost, meaning that the customer has been billed for the replacement cost.

Under the new policy, the replacement cost of the book will be waived when users return the item in good condition, no matter when. Cards will be blocked at $25; payment plans will be available.

Read the Article (approx. 1400 words)

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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