By Jim Newell
ORION TWP. — The Orion Township Public Library (OTPL) announced today that it would end late fees and wipe out the existing debt of patrons who still owe for overdue materials.
The “fine-free” policy goes into effect on Sept. 6.
On that day, Orion library patrons will no longer be charged late fines on most overdue items and all overdue fees not related to lost or damaged materials will be removed, library officials said.
“Our mission is to attract and serve a thriving community of lifelong learners” said library Director Chase McMunn. “To fully engage with the community, we need to remove barriers to access – and late fees are barriers. Fines tend to impact lower income patrons and families with children, two groups at the center of library services and programs.
Roughly 6,000 of the 23,383 registered Orion library cardholders are blocked currently for nonpayment of fines. The return of those patrons would benefit both the community and OTPL. Those previously absent due to owing fines would be motivated to return overdue materials, getting these items back on the shelves for use, library Community Relations Specialist Chene Koppitz stated in a news release about the Orion library’s decision.
“Lake Orion thrives when everyone has access to the materials they need. Outstanding fines often mean that a patron not only stops using the library, they fail to return the overdue materials,” McMunn said.
Orion Township Public Library joins other libraries that have gone fine-free. Of the 392 facilities that participated in the 2022 Michigan Public Libraries Annual Report, 44.1 percent reported being fine-free, a nearly threefold increase between 2020 and 2022, according to the library.
The library’s spending budget could be directed at purchasing new materials rather than replacing missing items.
“Revenue from fines has fallen progressively in the last five years, representing less than one percent of the OTPL operating budget,” said McMunn. “To see patrons and materials return with the removal of fines is a win-win for everyone.”
Once general late fees are eliminated, patrons will still be responsible for returning items on time and paying for lost and damaged materials. Rather than assessing late fees, automatic renewals will occur on eligible items and gentle reminders will be sent for those overdue. Patrons will be billed for damaged items and those overdue by 30 days. Materials obtained through interlibrary loan will still be subject to fines.
Eliminating late fees will allow library staff to focus on library services rather than debt collection.
“With our wide range of programs and materials, staff time is better spent engaging with patrons about our offerings and their needs rather than collecting fees,” said McMunn.
The Orion Township Public Library, 825 Joslyn Rd., is open 9:30 a.m. – 9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 1- p.m. Sundays.
Go to the library’s website, orionlibrary.org, or call 248-693-3000 for more information.
By Jim Newell