Elkhart Public Library seeing success with fine free program

NOW: Elkhart Public Library seeing success with fine free program


ELKHART, Ind. -- More young people are going to the library in Elkhart after officials decided to get rid of late fines for kids’ books. 

It’s a change happening in more and more libraries. 

“We decided to remove the overdue fines and we have found great success,” said Mary Beth Schlabach, assistant director of public services at Elkhart Public Library. 

Since the change in May, EPL says they’ve seen an overall positive impact. 

The number of new and returning cardholders under the age of 13 has increased 26.1 percent while the number of items checked out for kids has increased by 10.7 percent. 

Prior to the change, EPL used to charge a 10-cent-per-day fee on any overdue children’s book. If a child owed more than $10 they could not check out any materials. 

EPL says 1,337 cardholders under the age of 18 were blocked from borrowing but in the six months since the fine free program started, that number has decreased by 40 percent, meaning an additional 535 kids can now check out books. 

“Reading contributes to curiosity and memory and motivation and so it just all around, it’s for their academic success but also for their wellness all around,” said Schlabach. 

Schlabach says the fines created a barrier to reading and that interfered with EPL’s goal of helping kids become successful readers by third grade. 

“Reading successfully by third grade is a marker for graduation rates,” said Schlabach. “We were trying to figure out what are some ways we can help support that.” 

Studies back EPL’s reasoning too saying fines present a barrier to access, can negatively impact a community’s perception of a library and time spent collecting fees uses hundreds of dollars in staff time from already small library budgets. 

Libraries in Chicago and San Diego have eliminated fines and locally, libraries in New Carlisle, South Bend, Buchanan, and Plymouth offer fine free programs. 

“We want our children to be successful and so when they realize that they don’t have to worry about their children forgetting about a book in the corner of their room or making it back to the library in time affecting whether or not they can check out books again, it just makes it easier and feel less of a guilt,” said Schlabach. 

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