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Overdue book fees no more at T-SPL

In 1955, the poetry book Days and Deeds was checked out by a woman at the Kewanee Public Library in Illinois. In 2002, 47 years later, the woman’s daughter found the overdue book in her mother’s house and returned it to the Library. At a rate of 2 cents a day, the total fine for one overdue book was $345.14! That, according to Guinness World Records, is the largest library fine ever recorded. And it was paid in full! If someone were to return a book to the Tiffin-Seneca Public Library today 47 years overdue, do you know how much it would cost? Zero dollars. That is because earlier this month, the Tiffin-Seneca Public Library officially went overdue fine free! Lending our patrons materials is the primary way we go about achieving our overall mission, which is to meet the informational, educational, cultural, and recreational needs of all who live, work, or go to school in Seneca County. More and more libraries across the country are finding that fines create a barrier to access that often prevents the people (such as children and elderly patrons) who need Library services the most from utilizing the Library. Eliminating fines removes that barrier and allows us to better serve the entire community. Typically, fines are collected to encourage people to return items so the Library shelves aren’t bare and the materials can be put back in to circulation. While that is still true, the fact that we have the ability to lend and borrow with other libraries allows us more access to materials than ever before.

The Tiffin-Seneca Public Library is part of a consortium with almost 100 other Ohio libraries called Serving Every Ohioan, or SEO for short. All SEO libraries share materials with one another. When you place a hold on an item and we do not have it, we can almost certainly get it from another SEO library delivered right to our building. Any material you receive from an SEO member library will also be fine free. Occasionally, no SEO libraries have the item you may be looking for. In that case, we have other methods of finding what you are looking for. This is called an interlibrary loan. Fine accrued on interlibrary loans are still subject to fines up to $1 per day and are the only exception to the fine free rule.

Of course, just because we are removing fines does not mean that we are removing accountability. We will still charge for lost or damaged items. After an item is 30 days overdue, patrons are billed for the replacement cost. Patrons with a balance of $10 or more will have a block on their card and cannot check out any more materials until the item or items are returned or paid for. Because our biggest priority is getting materials back on the shelves for other patrons to check out, if a patron returns the overdue item, the charge will go away. And don’t worry! We don’t need revenue from fines to keep the lights on. Overdue fines accounted for approximately 0.04% of our annual revenue.

We are always looking for ways to better serve the community and are grateful for the opportunity to welcome people back to the Library.

For the most up to date information about library happenings, please visit our Facebook page or www.tiffinsenecalibrary.org.

Kayleigh Tschanen is the Community Relations Manager at Tiffin-Seneca Public Library

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