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Letters to the Editor: Without library fines, how many books will never be returned?

Senior Librarian Ana Campos looks for a book at the Central Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library in 2019.
Senior Librarian Ana Campos looks for a book at the Central Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library in 2019.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: I spent almost 40 years in library services. I take issue with the blanket approach to eliminating overdue book fines.

Libraries were not created to raise revenue. They were developed to provide service and access to the professionally selected, collective knowledge, wisdom, ideas and artistic endeavors of the human species.

It is accurate to say that fines are a minimal part of the budget. However, the library’s total budget is minimal. Any revenue helps buy books to enhance the collection or replace material unreturned.

There can and should be a library policy created to address exceptions for patrons who cannot afford fines. However, completely doing away with fines not only eliminates a revenue source but also allows patrons to have a laissez faire attitude on returns: Why bother recognizing the due date if it’s not going to cost me?

Library fines exist to encourage patrons to return material on time, not to impoverish them.

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Ron Hayden, Huntington Beach

The writer was Huntington Beach’s library director.

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To the editor: The Times has the facts right but advocates replacing a dysfunctional system with one consisting of no consequences until so many books are unreturned that the borrower’s privilege is revoked.

If high fees discourage borrowing, they should be lowered or pegged to a percentage of annual income. They should be augmented by some nudge like text messages reminding borrowers of overdue books.

Like college tuition or bus fares, fees for overdue books represent an honorable contract between individual and the public. Too high can’t be paid, but zero eliminates the contract.

Michael Helperin, Los Angeles


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