OK, let me respond to several of the comments that have been made on my piece, and, with her permission, on Alane's follow-up.
First, my comments were about public libraries. I know that academic and public libraries work in very different ways, and the need for a piece of information in demand by everyone registered in one class might require a more sophisticated system of sanctions to function.
Second, I have no problem with sending a notice to Patron A that Patron B has put a hold on an item, and could you please return it?
But that's as far as I'm willing to back off. Yes, I do sincerely think that fines should go. In fact, when I was a library director in Ohio back in the 1980s, and times were relatively flush, I proposed just such a scheme to my board. And I got shot down almost immediately, for most of the reasons cited by the commentators on my post.
Fines seem to bring out our most evangelical fervor. Look at the language people use to describe why we can't dump fines:
- "Inducing a sense of responsibility."
- "How about encouraging a little personal responsibility on the part of the patrons instead of blaming the libraries for following their policies?"
- "Users have the obligation to share library resources with others in the community, and to exercise good judgment in the use of library resources."
I do sincerely believe that anything that creates a perception of a barrier between the user and the library needs to come down. And one of the things that people repeatedly cite as a reason not to use libraries is overdue fines. Sure, more parking, longer hours, and an unlimited supply of the latest best sellers and videos wouldn't hurt either. But one thing at a time, OK?