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Public Library no longer charging fines

JOHNSTOWN — The Johnstown Public Library is now fine free, according to Director Erica Wing.

The 38 S. Market St. facility is no longer charging the public fines on late or overdue items, effective April 29.

“We experimented before with exchanging fines for a donation,” Wing said Wednesday.

But the director said this is the first time the city library has gone completely fine free, as part of “better service” for its patrons.

Wing said fines account for only less than 1 percent of the library’s revenue. She said it was determined fines do not have an impact on return rates, and actually discourage library use.

“We are proud to be patron-friendly and look forward to the increased library use this change will create,” the library’s Facebook page declared.

Wing issued a public “fact sheet” related to fines, asking users of the library to be courteous, despite no more charges on late items.

“You are still expected to return items in a timely manner,” the sheet says. “Automated reminders sent out at one day and seven days overdue will help you remember to return your items. These email reminders can only be sent if we have your email address on file. Items that are overdue by 21 or more days will be considered lost, and you will be billed for them. If you return the items, the charge will be cleared from your account.”

The fact sheet notes that library patrons will not be able to use their library account if you have lost item charges.

“We cannot waive or eliminate overdue fines charged by other libraries,” the sheet indicates. “We are working on clearing existing fines that we charged in the past. We understand the impact of a clean slate.”

Officials said the Johnstown Public Library Board of Trustees, Wing, and the staff believe that this will increase library accessibility to the entire community. They claim fines are “an unnecessary barrier to the service we are pleased to provide.”

The absence of fines is being built into the 2019 budget and will not increase the library’s tax levy.

Wing said eliminating fines is a trend happening in libraries across the country. She said the Albany Public Library eliminated fines on Jan. 1.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.

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