Finance

Libraries retreat from crime and punishment.

Auckland Library Books.

Penalties are waived from September 1.
Image: Alexia Russell

We are all there

You are cleaning. Maybe a clean spring, maybe you’re moving home. You are digging some ancient boxes with a thick layer of dust.

Then you saw them out of the corner of one eye.

Books. Many books. With barcodes

You have a stomach ache. You think, restless – are they mine? Did I buy them from a second hand store, Library Clearance?

You peek inside. No, you fixed them all. Five months ago.

Your memory clicks in gear when you hit this classic tom. Geopolitics, History and International Relations, Volume 4..

You made it to page three, as you remember, then you got upset, oh, something else interesting – dinner, or drying in the painting.

The books, all 13 of them, went to the box with a David Bowie costume party wig and a Richard Siemens workout VHS tape bought in the mid-90s. Long forgotten

But you know who didn’t forget?

Library.

You do math Thirteen books, one dollar a day, three months late.

Your mind goes to strange places: Am I guilty? If I try to leave the country, will they stop me at the border? Are Auckland City Libraries Sending Rocky Balboa After Me?

everyone. Here is his story.

But don’t be afraid – at least if you’re in Auckland.

To jump

Last year, Auckland Council Libraries released more than 13.5 million items and welcomed more than 8.5 million visitors to its 56 library centers.

This year it decided to abolish late fees altogether. This measure is effective September 1.

It also eliminated all outstanding debt: over $ 500,000, the largest of which was $ 319.90 – although this is less than that. Technically due From the property of US President George Washington

The concept behind library fines is very clear: pay back what you have borrowed on time, or you start paying.

But Louise Laht, head of heritage at Auckland City Libraries, says it can scare people.

Louise La Heat, Head of Auckland Library Research and Heritage.

Louise La Hete.
Image: Provided / Auckland Council

“We did a lot of research on libraries abroad and in New Zealand that have already lifted fines.

“Evidence shows that people are just as likely – and in many cases, more likely to return books when they don’t have the right scenario.

“Penalties make up a story where, when someone brings a library, the first thing people think about is fines.

“Seanfield did. A complete show about library police

“So what we’re trying to promote with libraries is that it’s a place where everyone is welcome, and everyone should have access to what libraries have to offer. And the fines are really for those people. They act as a hindrance that they cannot afford to pay.

“It may not cost anything, or the price of a cup of coffee for some people, but if you are a family that wants to see every dollar, you can’t afford it.

“We have families who do not allow their children to take out books because they cannot afford the fines. We have people who do not return to the library as soon as they are fined.

A global trend.

Library amnesty has been one thing for a long time – days, or weeks, when libraries have opened their return boxes, no questions asked, no decisions made.

In 2012, the Chicago Public Library held a general apology – Windy City’s first in more than 20 years – which saw more than that. 100,000 expired items returned home, With a total value of more than 2 million.

Another general apology. It was similarly successful in 2016, and in 2019, the library decided to cut the bullet and completely abolished overdue fines.

Chicago was not the first library to be free of fees. Many libraries in New Zealand have phased them out. Including Upper Hut, Salon, and Masterton.

I Gray MouthPenalties are replaced by a different type of foreclosure over the summer: reading your debt.

But the practice has spread over the past two years: early. 2019 in IrelandAll fines on all public libraries have been abolished, with the aim of doubling library membership by 2024.

La Hite says this is in stark contrast to the way the winds blow.

When there were heavy fines on people, we would hand over the loan to Bekarp (debt collection agency).

“It made it even scarier, and people may have lost trust with the library and not come back to us.”

Leaving funds.

In debt forgiveness, Auckland City Libraries is leaving more than half a million dollars – no small change for the library.

Pending fines are also a relatively reliable source of revenue: By fiscal year June 2021, all Auckland libraries collected a total of over $ 700,000 in fines – although this amount has been steadily declining from 2012 to 2019. , Partial increase in e-borrowing, which is not penalized. Less than 10% of items are pending at any given time – and dealing with fines amounts to a lot of administrative time.

Lahte says the change is part of the council’s long-term plan, and that none of the library’s services will be affected.

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Image: Insplash / Jessica Rosello.

“We will still send courtesy reminder notices before and after an item is scheduled,” La Hate said.

“Twenty-four days after the item’s due date, we say, ‘OK, we think you may have lost it,’ and send people a notice saying they’ve been charged with an alternative.”

“Once it’s on the card, they can’t borrow anymore – but if they return the book, it’s all over and they can borrow again.”

Which makes sense – because books cost money, and libraries just can’t afford to give them away.

“We do this because we can see our evidence and see that we have a lot of customers. People who haven’t used us in a year or more.

“We can also see where they live in Auckland, and as you might expect, they are more likely to be in South Auckland and West Auckland.

“We want to make sure we’re coming to Auckland, and we’re especially important to people who don’t have a job and are looking for a job, who don’t have access to other reading or information. , And often there are people we are losing, because they see that the library is a place where they are going to give us money if they start using us.

Whether or not other libraries across the country will guide the libraries that made the call is still in the air.

But your loyal, forgotten correspondents certainly hope they do, so he may be back on the library shelf for the first time since George W. Bush became president.

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