NORTH ADAMS – In recent weeks, people have been able to sit in the North Adams Public Library and read books or use computers for the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. As COVID-19 restrictions ease, there’s one policy that’s here to stay: No more late fees.
During the pandemic, the fee was waived and the library board recently decided to keep it that way, library director Sarah Sanfilippo said.
“It’s a growing trend nationwide,” she said. “This is something that libraries across the country have realized is not very effective in getting people to return things. It’s a bit punitive. … What happens if your car breaks down? Or do you have to take care of your grandchildren? ” she said.
“It seems to affect people who can’t afford to come here as easily as others. It is not a fair way of doing things.
About 90 libraries in the central and western Massachusetts library system do not charge late fees, according to Sanfilippo, and she does not expect the change in policy to result in a significant loss of money for the community. library.
In fiscal 2018 and 2019, the library collected approximately $ 3,000 in fines per year, she said. When the library began automatically renewing materials for people, rather than requiring customers to request a renewal, the fines were then cut by about half, according to Sanfilippo.
“That kind of tells me people don’t keep things on purpose,” she said.
What are the new rules?
“To be clear, you can’t keep something forever,” Sanfilippo said. “If you keep it for more than a month after the last expiration date, we’ll send you an invoice. Then if you return it, the invoice will disappear.
The new policy applies only to items in the North Adams Public Library, and not to materials owned by other libraries in the Central and Western Massachusetts Library System that charge late fees.
Late fines will always apply to museum passes as they are in high demand, Sanfilippo said. “We need them quickly, just so other people can take advantage of them.”