Library late fines to end in Schenectady County; Library trustees agree to new policy starting April 1

The downtown Schenectady main library in October.
PHOTOGRAPHER:

The downtown Schenectady main library in October.

SCHENECTADY – Late fines on borrowed materials at Schenectady County public libraries are set to end, officials said Friday.

Instead, they’ll be replaced by a system of replacement fees designed to still encourage materials to be returned, officials said.

The library’s Board of Trustees adopted a new policy Thursday evening that eliminates them for borrowed materials returned after their due date. The policy takes effect April 1.

The trustees’ move came after the County Legislature voted to ask for the elimination of late fines at all nine branch libraries, officials said.

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The system has about 12,000 cardholders who have a balance of $5 or greater in fines. That represents about 26 percent of all cardholders, officials said.

The balances effectively bar them from borrowing materials or using computers and can be a literacy barrier, officials said. Officials also cited studies that showed that patrons overall are more likely to return borrowed books and materials when late fines aren’t assessed.

“Libraries are a valuable asset to the community and we want to make sure that they can continue to encourage lifelong learning, exploration and innovation in all of our residents,” Legislator Sara Mae Pratt, chair of the libraries committee said in a statement.

Under the updated policy:

  • Patrons will be notified if an item they borrowed is overdue.
  • Items will be declared lost after they have been overdue for 21 days. A replacement fee will then be charged and a bill sent to the account holder.
  • If the patron returns an item, even after it has been declared lost, the replacement fee will be removed from their account.
  • If a patron pays to replace an item, but later finds it an returns it within 90 days of its past due date, they may receive a refund.
  • Borrowing privileges will be suspended for cardholders with replacement fees totaling $100 or more. That will apply to physical materials. They would still be able to access e-books and library computers.

Previously assessed late fines will be waived for patrons who have returned borrowed materials after their due dates. Replacement fees will still be assessed for lost or damaged materials, officials said.

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