MidPointe, Lane libraries end ‘nickel and dimed’ fines in Butler County

Fees will still be levied for items that are damaged or not returned at Butler County’s 2 largest library systems.

MidPointe Library System and Lane Libraries, Butler County’s two largest library systems, are joining other leaders in library lending to go “fine free” and eliminate overdue fines.

Travis Bautz, executive director of MidPointe, said eliminating fines improves customer service, increases access for the patrons, and allows library staff to spend more time to perform “essential and valuable engagements” with customers.

Past fines on patron accounts will be forgiven starting this week, he said. Patrons will remain responsible for any fees on their accounts. Fees typically represent charges from items that were lost or damaged.

“We still depend on our visitors to remain conscientious regarding the items they check out,” he said. “While patrons won’t be ‘nickel and dimed’ with fines, fees are still levied for items that are damaged, lost or not returned at all.”

Under the new policy, if materials have been overdue for more than 21 days, the library will assume the items are lost and will bill patrons for the material’s replacement cost, according to Bautz.

Overdue fines collected by MidPointe in recent years has steadily dropped, with the introduction of automatic renewals and an increase in digital borrowing, he said.

MidPointe paused fine collection in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The MidPointe Library System serves a population of almost 200,000 people in the cities of Middletown, Trenton, and Monroe and the townships of West Chester, Liberty, Lemon, Madison, and Wayne with a collection of nearly half a million materials.

Lane, with branches in Hamilton, Fairfield and Oxford, began suspending fines at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and formally adopted the policy in November of 2020, said Carrie Mancuso, public relations manager.

She said in the last year the feedback from customers enjoying fine free items has been “very positive.”

Mancuso said the library system has waived past fines to help those with blocked accounts begin to utilize the library again.

Overdue reminders will be sent out before and after an item’s due date. Items that are not checked in after the loan period will be declared lost and billed to the patron’s account, though the patron has one year to return the item and have the replacement cost waived as long as the item is in normal condition, she said.

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