Copied from ln_net on August 24, 2005
Date: Tue, 23 Aug 2005 21:03:59 -0500
From: Donna Cook
Subject: Re: SEC-Overdue Book Fines

The problem with charging fines is that you HAVE to send out overdue notices religiously if you have fines. It would not be fair to be charging fines on a daily basis if the kids didn’t know about their overdue books in a timely manner. Of course, you’re always going to have kids saying they never saw a notice, but that just means you have to do all you can to be TRY to get them regular notices.
And sending out notices raises the problem of how you’re going to get those notices into the hands of delinquent students. Don’t even start aski ng yourself how you’re going to do that without publishing the titles of books and preserving the privacy of your students. If you send notices to the first period teachers, then you have to depend on them to pass the notices out to the students. You’ll quickly learn which teachers are conscientious and which scrape all your notices into the garbage when they’ve forgotten to pass them out a few days in a row.
So, those are some of the problems. This is how I solved it for my library. I charge a fine, but it doesn’t kick in for 20 days after the due date. It’s called a “grace period” in our circ system. That gives me time to send out about three notices before the fine kicks in–about one a week. (Way better than one notice every day or so. That was driving me and the teachers nuts.) If the kid hasn’t come in and renewed the item, or turned it in in those 20 days after the due date, then the fine if $1.00. It starts at $1.00 and stays $1.00. That is enough to make a point, but not so much as to clobber a student.
The strongest muscle I have for collecting overdue books and fines is that a student at my school cannot be exempt from semester finals if she ha s either. So the week before finals (Dec. and May) I send out overdue notices every day, and the dollars come flowing in. Nearly every kid thinks $1.00 to get out of taking a final is a good deal. One weird thing about smaller fines was that high school kids tended to think small fines were kind of embarrassing. They don’t mind paying $1.00 nearly as much as they copped an attitude about paying a 45 cent fine.
Oh, one other thing about fines: as much as possible, I try to remember to call them “extended use fees.” Someone on LM_NET once wrote that librarians and police were the only people who assess fines. Blockbuster and other “more customer oriented” entities charge fees. I’m not sure that is perfectly true, but I’ve been teaching myself to use the more positive term.