Whiting Library to institute late fees beginning April 2

For the first time in its 120-year history, the Whiting Library will begin charging patrons a late fee on any item not returned by the due date. The policy change takes place Monday, April 2.

Each late item – whether a book, DVD, audiobook or CD – will be assessed 20 cents for each day the library is open – or 80 cents a week, up to a maximum of $10, said Whiting director Sharon Tanzer. The usual checkout time for library materials is two weeks.

Tanzer also said that if the replacement value of overdue materials exceeds $50, a patron’s borrowing privileges would be suspended. “Let’s say someone borrows 20 children’s books,” she said, “and we don’t get them back in a timely fashion, privileges will be suspended.” Tanzer added.

Bruce Parks, chairperson of the Board of Trustees, said there are several reasons behind the policy change. “For the last couple of years,” he said, “we have had a large number of delinquent books and that has been very inconvenient for other patrons.” He added, “We could use whatever little additional income this will add and, now that we are automated, we can track what books are overdue more easily and who has them.”

Tanzer said that the library was estimating in this year’s budget that “we’d be able to collect about $300 … in late fees.”

“The old card system was cumbersome, time-consuming and a royal pain … actually,” Parks said. “We ended up having nonexistent addresses, old telephone numbers and library cards that were issued 30 to 40 years ago. Trying to get in touch with someone who had an overdue book could be very difficult.”

“The old card system was cumbersome, time-consuming and a royal pain … actually.”
Bruce Parks
Whiting Board of Trustees

Tanzer said the library had been contacting overdue borrowers by letter. “The cost in staff time, postage and replacement could have been used to buy new DVDs, books and other materials,” she said. “Now we (also) call and send emails … I’ve found a good response with that.”
Still, there are about 200 items currently past due, Tanzer said.

Tanzer said the library will continue to “do everything we can as we have in the past to contact the patron. We always offer a chance for renewals.” She added that one of the newest features the library will offer is “extended due dates under certain circumstances… like someone who knows they want to borrow but won’t be back in two weeks but will return soon after.” It’s a great feature for travelers, she said.

When asked what type of feedback the library has been receiving concerning the late fee, Parks chuckled, “This week we’ve gotten over 50 overdue books back.”

– Cynthia Prairie

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About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor for 30 years, having worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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  1. Cynthia Prairie says:

    Thanks Ron, We never want to publish factual errors and are happy to run corrections and set the record straight. Since we received the information from the Whiting Library, if someone from the library could respond, that would be great. Thank you.

  2. Ron Patch says:

    I applaud the library decision to charge a late fee on books etc. I think it will teach youngsters responsibility. But, the statement that this is the first time in 120 years is false. All through the 1950s and 1960s the library charged a late fee of 2 cents per day. In those days all soda and beer bottles had a 2-cent redemption value. Two cents meant something to us kids, so most of us returned our books on time. I felt strongly that this correction was needed. Ron