By Sheena Johnson, Public Services Coordinator
Pulaski County Library System
The Pulaski County Library System, which includes the Pulaski Library and the Charles and Ona B. Free Memorial Library, has made the leap to a fine free future for the patrons of their system. The Pulaski County Library System is the first library within the New River Valley to do away with all patron fines, breaking down the barrier that can be created by fine accrual.
The PCLS Board of Trustees voted to eliminate fines on January 25, 2022 and have since made strides toward achieving that goal, with the date of March 1, 2022 as the hopeful launch of this new policy change. The library system feels that fines create barriers for all members of the community but that lower income families truly feel the weight of those fines the most. The American Library Association states that, “Imposing any financial barrier may disadvantage users, and libraries of all types—public, school, and academic—should consider eliminating barriers that limit access to library resources and other services”. (ALA, 2019)
As many other libraries have gone fine free throughout the state, and the country, the Pulaski County Library System has been keeping an eye on how things developed within other library systems so that they better knew how to deal with this issue in their own community. Jena Coalson, Youth Librarian for PCLS, states, “I have been keeping tabs on the progress of public libraries going fine free for the past couple of years, but, what really inspired me to push for this change in our own library system was hearing about the number of children in our county who are not reading at grade level”. The PCLS felt that this was a significant endeavor to pursue and they are excited to say that they can be a part of this new era of fine elimination and truly equal access for all members of the Pulaski community.
Though excited about the new transition, the PCLS will await to see how this new process will affect the return times on library materials. Hopes are high that this will not alter the processes that have been set in place for so long and that all patrons will generously abide by the time that is allotted for materials. The PCLS feels that the process will go smoothly as they have great faith in their patrons and community. They hope that this endeavor will welcome more school age children to take advantage of library services with an ease that, perhaps, was not felt before with fine accrual. Dr. Kevin Siers, Superintendent of Pulaski County Public Schools, states that, “If this move encourages even one student to check out more books it will have been a worthwhile endeavor”.
Going forward, the Pulaski County Library will provide fine free accounts for all patrons although this does not eliminate the fees associated with Inter-library Loans and damaged or lost materials. The Library will provide the answers to some frequently asked questions on their website and at both library locations to address any concerns that the public may have about this transition. The absence of fines will be a continued effort and the PCLS hopes that this progression encourages everyone to drop in, get a library card, attend a program, or even visit the library again to sort out fines that once were. PCLS Director Sally Warburton concludes that “I hope eliminating fines will bring new people into our libraries and allow previous users to return”. Fine forgiveness is a fine thing to do and the PCLS is certainly glad that they are finally a part of the movement.