21 Mar, 2010
Seminole County Library Fees Policy
I know it’s my own fault that I missed my library book’s due date by one day. Still, it seems insanely inefficient that, because of Seminole County’s zero balance policy, I need to physically go to the library and hand my twenty cents to the librarian before I can renew the book. Surely, the librarian has better ways to spend her time than collecting fees in nickels and dimes. And this aggravating slap on my wrist is not going to make me any more likely to remember the exact due date of my library book.
I understand that there was a huge problem of library materials not being returned and fees not being paid that had to be addressed. But there’s no reason that the public library can’t serve the public in a respectful, efficient, friendly manner. I’m not sure what the desired result of the change in fees was, but my top guesses as to possible intentions:
1. To cut excessive loss of materials
I suspect that those who have no intention of returning materials still won’t bring them back. A reasonable acceptable balance could have been set, say $5 or $10. If the library was allowing the balances of a limited number of patrons to become outrageous while continuing to lend them books, the solution was not to hit the average user who might be a couple days late.
2. To increase fee collections
I know that I paid a lot more in fees before this policy change. Although I was never so much as a week late, I would renew my items online and pay any accumulated fees when I returned the item to the library. Now, I could choose to just ignore the fact that I’m overdue; 20 cents a day isn’t going to break me. But I don’t return books late on purpose and it would just bug me now that I know it’s overdue. So I drive to the library, hand over my two dimes with annoyance, and hesitate to check out any more books. Which leads to number 3.
3. To decrease public demand by making the system as onerous as possible
The Seminole County Library System is computerized. You can search the library holdings, access your account, renew items, place holds, all online. But apparently, the Seminole county library system is unable to send email. Orange county library sends a heads up email to remind you that you have items due soon, another when the item is 1 day late, and another when the item is 14 days overdue. You’ll get nothing from Seminole. If they really just want us to return on time, they would send automated reminders. If they wanted to collect fees more effectively, they would provide more options for paying than taking cash to the library. Instead, they put us in limbo until we make a trip to the library. It feels more like pettiness than responsible management of a tax-payer supported public service.
Instead of this silly zero tolerance fiasco, Seminole should have looked at Orange county’s policies. Orange County Library System reminds you of due dates and allows you to pay your fines online, by phone, or in person. I’d even be happy to put a deposit on my account to cover any fees incurred or keep a credit card on file to cover any fees or lost books, like I do at Blockbuster. This “overdraft” protection would be optional but I think it would be wildly popular with the library’s regular users. I’d certainly prefer it to having to schlep to the library on a Sunday afternoon to avoid accruing fees on my overdue book that I can’t renew.