Forget late fees.
Starting Jan. 2, the charges will be discontinued at the Herrick Memorial Library in a trial that will go on through at least the end of June.
Library director Janet Hollingsworth said the decision was made to make Herrick a bit friendlier and to say thank you to the community for approving a 1.25-mill operational levy in 2016.
“This is something we’ve been wanting to do for a long time,” she said. “I see the fines we charge as sometimes a barrier. That especially applies to children. Some people have used their children’s card to check out books and rack up fines on it. Then the kids can’t use the card.”
Any outstanding fines, no matter how high, will be forgiven as long as the overdue materials are returned.
Overdue items will still have to be returned before taking out new ones or before using the library’s computers.
“We always listen to people’s circumstances and try to help out when something causes an item being returned late, like illness or an injury,” she said. “Some children might not necessarily live in Wellington and need a parent to drive them here to return a book, so it’s beyond their control. We know things happen.”
When items aren’t returned after a lengthy period, Herrick will continue to use a collection agency, Illinois-based Unique Management Services, to attempt to recover them.
“A letter will be sent out that lets the borrower know what needs to be returned,” said Hollingsworth. “This isn’t a nasty collection agency. We searched for the right one for a long time and a lot of libraries use it. Our ideal situation is getting to the point where we won’t need to use an agency at all.”
Eliminating late fees will result in an approximate $10,000 yearly income reduction at Herrick.
In Ohio’s biennial budget passed this summer, libraries were set to have their annual funding cut from 1.7 percent of the state budget to 1.66 percent. When the final budget was signed by Gov. John Kasich in June, the final percentage came in at 1.68.
The economic recession that began in 2007 turned Herrick’s original levy into a way of just breaking even rather than an avenue to new funds. According to fiscal officer Joe Siekeres, the library has gone from receiving $391,595 in state aid in 2007 to $282,137 in 2016.
“The state budget isn’t wonderful and we’d like to be where we used to be,” said Hollingsworth. “It will be looked at again this summer. We hope it doesn’t drop back down again, but for right now, we’re looking OK.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.