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St. Helena Public Library

The St. Helena Public Library is at 1492 Library Lane.

The next time you’re a few days late returning a book to the St. Helena Public Library, your absent-mindedness won’t cost you a cent.

The St. Helena City Council approved a set of policies Tuesday that eliminates overdue fines on all materials, eliminates interlibrary loan fees, and allows nonprofits to use the library’s meeting room for free.

Overdue fines had never been effective in motivating borrowers to return materials on time, and processing the fines required significant staff time, Library Director Chris Kreiden told the council.

At 25 cents per day per item, the library collected a little over $6,000 in overdue fines in the 2017-2018 fiscal year. Each fine transaction, no matter the amount, cost the city approximately $2.25 in staff time to collect the money, write a receipt, balance the library’s cash register every day, and take other steps to comply with the city’s cash handling procedures.

Fines also present “a barrier to library use” because some low-income families avoid coming to the library when they know they will be asked to pay a fine, Kreiden said.

Checkout periods will remain unchanged, and patrons will incur a replacement charge and a $10 processing fee if materials are not returned or renewed within 14 days of their due date. However, if the item is returned in good condition, those fees will be waived.

Kreiden noted that other California libraries have eliminated overdue fees recently, including Berkeley, San Diego and Contra Costa County.

The library will continue to charge 10 cents per page for printing and copying and $25 per hour for groups other than nonprofits to use the meeting room.

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St. Helena Reporter

Jesse has been a reporter for the St. Helena Star since 2006.