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GRRL to Require Zero Fines Balance for Checkouts in 2011

Great River Regional Library (GRRL) is preparing to change its policy on fines to encourage prompt payment by patrons who have accumulated charges on their accounts. The change is being driven by increased pressure on library budgets.

Beginning in January 2011, patrons will have to pay their account balances in full before borrowing additional materials. Your GRRL account accumulates charges when items are returned late or damaged or lost. Prompt return of items is encouraged to ensure that items are available to as many library patrons as possible and the library’s resources are used efficiently. Currently, library patrons may carry a balance of up to $6 on their library account without any effect on their borrowing; those who owe the library more than $6 may not borrow items until their account is paid down to $6 or less. The zero balance policy will take effect for all materials and loans when GRRL branches open for business in 2011. It is already in effect for our new e-services.

GRRL will also begin charging for test proctoring in 2011. Libraries are designated as acceptable locations in which monitoring of exams may take place, such as tests and quizzes for online classes. Library staff provide the service on request. Beginning in January, all GRRL locations will charge $10 per test.

“The $6 fines threshold has been in place for a long time,” said Karen Pundsack, GRRL patron services coordinator. “But times change. The pressure on our budget is coming from two directions: patrons have increased their use of our services and the budget is getting tighter. We can’t afford to have a large sum of money uncollected when budget revenue is falling. We need to know what we have to work with.”

The library began 2010 with approximately 133,700 cardholders. A check of patron accounts in November, 2010, showed that approximately 59,000 current and expired borrowers owed the library between $0 and $6.00 for a total of $163,771. Approximately 7,000 borrowers owed exactly $6 for a total of $42,204.

“The good thing about library fines is that they can be avoided,” Pundsack said. “We have generous checkout limits, but people do need to be responsible and keep track of what they have and when it needs to be returned."

Proctoring fees are being introduced because monitoring testing is time consuming and pulls staff away from core library activities, Pundsack said.