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Lied Scottsbluff library eliminates past due book fees

Lied Scottsbluff library eliminates past due book fees

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The Scottsbluff Public Library is gearing up to reopen after the installation of new carpet. The project is a heavy project with thousands of books needing to be moved.

Have you been dreading returning that past due book to the library because you didn’t want to face the “walk of shame” to return the book and pay the fee?

Fear not. Through action proposed by the Lied Scottsbluff Public Library board and approved by the city council Monday night, there will no longer be late fees assessed for past due materials. Lost or damaged fees are still applicable.

Interim city manager Rick Kuckkahn said late fees were more of an “irritant tax” than anything, and there was no financial benefit to the city to continue the collection. Wednesdays and Saturdays had already been fine free days, and some fees had been waived due to the coronavirus pandemic. Monday’s action removed the late fees altogether.

“It really is just a burden on our lower-income families, and that is exactly the people we are striving to help the most,” library director Erin Aschenbrenner said. “I really think this is a good opportunity to help our community out.”

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An individual who has past due materials will still have their library card suspended and will not be able to check out anything else until the book is returned or replaced if lost. Books are considered lost when they reach 60 days past due.

“They are still responsible for their items, just not monetarily,” Aschenbrenner said. “They won’t be able to check out any more items. They can’t use Overdrive to check out, and they can’t use the public computers until they either pay for their book or they return it. After 60 days, we consider it lost, and they have to pay us for the book.”

The blockage of the library card seems to be an even better deterrent than the fines, Aschenbrenner said.

“The fines are embarrassing,” she said. “It’s getting a call from a debt collector, and it makes them not want to come back, because who wants to have that confrontation? It makes it a very uncomfortable situation for everybody, and they’re more than willing to bring their materials back. This would just make it a little bit easier.”

In addition to books, the library has a selection of DVDs and puzzles.

“We’d like to have a ‘thing-brary’ some day, where you can check out, like, a wrench from the library instead of going and buying one,” Aschenbrenner said. “But, we’re not quite there yet.”

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Lost and damaged book fees will still apply when warranted.

“If a book is damaged beyond repair, we’ll do our best to repair it, but if we can’t, we ask that they pay for the repair, and if it’s lost, we ask that they replace it,” Aschenbrenner said.

Council member Angela Scanlan expressed her thanks for the program.

“I have a 4-year-old who stashes books in very creative places, so we’re very grateful for this,” Scanlan said. “It’s great that you want to do this for the community.”

Council member Nathan Green said the program will eliminate the “walk of shame” for parents who are trying to return materials for their kids.

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The library has been closed temporarily while the carpet is being replaced, but Aschenbrenner said the facility will reopen on Monday.

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