The Tillamook Library’s new “Fines Free” policy – eliminating fines for overdue books – is well-intentioned but mistaken.
The claim is that fines “intimidate” people and prevent them from using the library. But how intimidating can twenty-five cents be?
“Fines Free” is a national movement promoted by big city libraries claiming that library fines are racist and discriminatory towards black people. Whether that is true or not elsewhere, less than one percent of Tillamook Library users are black, so it appears to be a solution in search of a problem.
Racism does not happen at the Tillamook Library. I will personally donate $100 to the Tillamook Library Foundation if anyone shows discriminatory practices by any staff, volunteer, or board member.
I suspect, but admittedly do not know, that the new policy is virtue-signaling, or perhaps just going along with what national library groups are promoting.
But “Fines Free” isn’t free. Loss of income means less money for the library budget. Voters will remember that when asked to increase funding once again.
There will be a cost in reduced availability of materials. Human nature being what it is, people will keep books longer. More books will be needed to maintain the same level of availability. Or you will have to wait longer because of someone else’s lack of consideration.
Fear of fines is not a deterrent to using libraries, anywhere. What the policy really intends to do is remove the threat of losing library privileges, which happens if you rack up fines and don’t pay. This threat of lost privileges motivates people to follow the rules. Refuse to pay parking and speeding tickets and you lose your driving privileges. Should we get rid of those fines? People who repeatedly break rules don’t deserve the privilege. If you refuse to obey the library’s modest rules – meant to benefit everyone – then you don’t deserve the privilege of using the library.
A library can teach children individual responsibility and the consequences of not obeying rules. What is the message of “Fines Free”? Just ignore the rules about returning books on time Johnny, rules don’t matter and there are no consequences to breaking them.
Fines and penalties serve a legitimate purpose. Should we abolish fines for not paying to use county recreational facilities? For not paying taxes, credit card or utility bills on time? Why not declare everything “Fines Free”?
Fines Free is a national movement that may have purpose elsewhere, but only negative consequences in Tillamook County. It rewards bad behavior at the expense of the vast majority of patrons who do follow the rules.
Decisions should be based on what is right locally, not on what trendy national policies might be the flavor of the day.
Doubtless they meant the best, but the Library’s Board of Directors should reconsider this ill-advised decision.
Members of the Library Board and Library Foundation Board are listed at:
-Robert Deen, Tillamook