Users of the Santa Barbara Public Library aren’t faced with overdue fines anymore.
Fines are being eliminated to boost access for library users, according to a news release. The Santa Barbara City Council voted earlier this month to eliminate overdue fines.
“Santa Barbara Public Library’s mission is to best serve its community and provide equitable access to all, and overdue fines were in opposition to this goal,” Library Director Jessica Cadiente said in the news release. “Eliminating fines eliminates barriers to use, and we want everyone to feel confident and welcome to use the Santa Barbara Public Library.”
There is still a fee for replacing borrowed materials that have not been returned 30 days after the due date. The fee can be waived if the materials are returned before 60 days and in good condition.
Revenue gained from overdue fines make up less than 1 percent of the Library’s $6 million budget and the “amount of staff time required to collect fines exceeds revenue,” according to the news release.
For fiscal year 2017-18, the Library collected $12,000 in fines. In contrast, the cost of staff time to collect these fines was $120,000 or roughly $10,000 a month, Ms. Cadiente said.
She pointed to time spent on sorting different pay methods and times that “$5 to $10” fines had to solved by Ms. Cadiente herself when they came up the chain.
“It just wasn’t a good use of our time when we could be providing service to the communities,” Ms. Cadiente said to the News-Press.
The Library is following a trend across California. The San Diego Public Library, the Los Angeles County Public Library have eliminated fines. The Black Gold Consortium, a cooperative library system that encompasses both San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara County libraries, has begun to eliminate overdue fines as well, with San Luis Obispo Public Library and the Paso Robles Public Library being the most recent examples, according to the news release.
“Many libraries reported improvements in patron relationships with the library and increased efficiency of staff time after eliminating fees, an increase in active cardholders,” and claim that “even without fines,”, 95 percent of library materials are still returned on time.
Library Cards for Student Success is a collaborative effort between the Santa Barbara Public Library and the Santa Barbara Unified School District to allow parents and guardians to give their child a library card automatically when they enroll online. Currently, 5,000 students have library cards. The Library hopes that all 15,000 students of the school district will have library cards through the program.
“The program starts in July as part of the online enrollment process,” Ms. Cadiente said. “We hope all of them opt in and take advantage of the free resources the library can offer.”
The Library hopes to expand the program to other school districts, according to the news release. Ms. Cadiente says the Library is aiming to serve the Montecito and Carpinteria school districts next.