Long Overdue

First, full disclosure: I have not always been the best at returning library books on time. Once or twice, I actually racked up fines high enough to cover the cost of the item I borrowed. My bad, please accept my donation, sorry for the inconvenience.

Today I am much more conscientious, but if I were a patron (library users are “patrons,” BTW) of the Troy Public Library I would not need to be conscientious at all, because Troy has joined the growing number of libraries that are eliminating fines.

According to news reports, the Troy library said that fines can be a deterrent to those who need their services the most, and a fine avoidance can actually delay the return of an item. They told WRGB, “Fines can interfere with the library’s important mission of providing information to the residents of Troy.”

Makes sense, right?

Well, WAMC dug a little deeper into the subject and found that the director of Utica’s fine-free library has much a diffferent take. He said that library workers are subjected to “stressful and often very contentious” work conditions, and that dropping fines reduces trouble. Director Chris Sagaas says, “There’s a lot less conflict between library users and our staff,” and that “removing conflict and aggression or the possibility for it is a good thing for library services.”

What’s puzzling about this is what’s always puzzling about everything: people. It’s one thing to be lazy, or a procrastinator, or downright irresponsible — but then to walk into the library and start a fight over the fines you accumulated?

Well, I think we can all agree that we don’t go to the library for conflict and aggression. If I want that, I’ll stop in at the Spectrum Cable store.

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