DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Dodging library fines in Dallas? Well, relief could be on the way.
Jo Giudice, the director of libraries for the City of Dallas, is asking the city council to eliminate fines for past due materials — saying such fees are a barrier that customers cannot afford.
“We have over 650,000 customers with library cards,” says Giudice, “and almost 50% of them have a block on their card.”
In Dallas, library cards are blocked when late fees total as little as $5. It’s a problem at every branch; but, Giudice says the issue has more of an impact in the city’s poorest communities: for example — 67% of cards are blocked at the MLK branch, 62% are blocked at Lancaster-Kiest, 58% are blocked at Dallas West and Pleasant Grove.
“We want to have these books in children’s hands, and the whole family benefits from it.”
No need to convince Crystal Dorsey. The flight attendant is already a big fan of public libraries. “They have so many resources,” says Dorsey, enjoying the children’s area at the Central Library with 5-year-old, Londynn, “books, educational games for your children…”
But, Dorsey admits that with her busy travel schedule some things are forgotten, “It’s so easy, especially when you travel so much! You’re not even conscious about it until three days overdue and you owe like $5!”
Now, around North Texas and the nation, libraries are implementing no-late-fee plans for overdue materials, and it appears to be paying off.
Plano’s Director of Libraries says the plan is working well in that Collin County city. Libby Holtmann, Plano Director of Libraries, tells CBS 11 News that overall, patrons have been returning borrowed items sooner, since late fees were removed.
Dallas library staffers are expecting a similar success story — only imposing fees if items are not returned.
“That’s really our goal here,” says Giudice, “lending things, getting them back, and not being a financial burden to our customers.”
Giudice presented the proposal to the city’s Quality of Life committee today. Her presentation included a story of one mother’s experience with a blocked card — one that she says plays out throughout the library system, each and every day.
“It was a mom who had a pile of books and movies to check out and found out she had a block on her card with a fine. She couldn’t afford it. She was embarrassed. Her kids were standing there,” Giudice recalled. “She threw the books down and said, ‘I’m never coming back here’. And I don’t want that to happen.”
In addition to eliminating late fees for items that are ultimately returned, library staffers are also working out the details of a plan to allow patrons to clear account issues with volunteer hours or by donating to the North Texas Food Bank.
Giudice says she’s planning to visit with each council member before the proposal comes before the full council late next month. After all — to err is human: especially here.
“Hmmm,” Giudice admits with a laugh and emphatic “Yes! It happens to me…it happens to us all.”