Overdue fines will no longer be issued on children’s accounts at the Iola Public Library.
Fines accrued in the past on children’s accounts have been forgiven, clearing 227 accounts, the library announced in a press release last week.
Those children are now free to resume using the library.
However, library director Roger Carswell notes the new policy applies only to the fines — books or other materials which were never returned still must be returned or paid for.
The 227 accounts were those who had already returned materials but still owed fines.
Carswell points to evidence accumulated for several years that fines, especially for children, are counterproductive. Fines do not seem to decrease the number of books which are long overdue, Carswell said, and may actually increase the number which are never returned at all.
Furthermore, fines are increasingly being seen as a barrier to access to books.
This is especially true for children from poor families, where even small amounts of unexpected expenses can’t be handled, and consequently parents may not take their children to the library at all, he said.
Studies show that circulation rates among low-income families are lower in libraries which charge fines than in those which don’t. These are often the children who most need free access to books, Carswell said.