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Kitsap Library swaps late fees for good old-fashioned guilt

Many people have been taunted by that one library book on their shelf, accruing fines as weeks turn into months. Soon you begin to feel like a scofflaw and avoid the library all together.

Well Kitsap Regional Library wants to welcome you back with open arms. They plan to forgive outstanding late fines and will no longer collect them at all as of August 16, reports the Kitsap Sun.

“Kitsap Library is basically saying, ‘You know what? There are no laws. There are no rules anymore. Go ahead, take the books as much as you want, and don’t worry about us fining you,” said KIRO Radio’s John Curley.

“It’s anarchy in Kitsap County,” joked co-host Mike Lewis.

Library fines have little impact in returns

Studies across the U.S. have shown that fines had very little impact in returns, and often inhibited people from ever returning to the library. It turns out that simply guilting people into returning the books is enough.

“I think it’s actually a dynamite idea,” Lewis added. “They found that the fines actually created a disincentive for people to come back and use the library regularly. Because the fines were so low anyway. People just knew that their library cards would typically get frozen when they had the fine on it, and then just wouldn’t show back up and leave the book on the shelf.”

RELATED: Better late than never: Library gets book 47 years overdue

Similar experiments have been tried in libraries across the country. The San Diego Library eliminated overdue fees after a study revealed that the library was spending nearly $1 million to collect less than $700,000. And in Salt Lake City, new cardholders increased 3.5 percent and checkouts rose 10 percent after overdue fees were done away with.

The Kitsap Library found that of the 60,936 KRL patrons with fines, only 45 percent used the library in the last two years.

“But can you take the book out and never bring it back?” Curley wondered.

“If there’s no fine, what is the cutoff period?” Lewis said. “Like, ‘Hey this guy’s never coming back with this book’–My guess is you probably still owe for the book.”


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