Island Free Library going fine free

To be implemented Jan. 1
Tue, 11/20/2018 - 7:15pm

“I think that because we are the Island Free Library, I move that the library should go fine free.”

Willie Feuer, Treasurer of the Island Free Library’s Board of Trustees, made that motion after the board deliberated elimination of library fines at the behest of Library Director Kristin Baumann. Board member Gloria Redlich quickly seconded the motion, and it passed unanimously 6-0. Board member Lisa Nolan ran the meeting in the absence of Chair Shirlyne Gobern.

Baumann and the board agreed that the fine-free policy needs to be drafted before it can go into effect. She told The Times that she would like to have the policy implemented at the library on or around Jan. 1.

During the discussion, Baumann proposed that the library conduct a trial run of the policy. She said more and more libraries are going fine free, and noted that the $3,000 the library collects on an annual basis in fines could be offset by donations, and also be subsidized by the Friends of the Library.

Baumann said the donation jar at the main desk could read: “Welcome to fine free. Feel free to donate.”

“Is your thought now to just eliminate fines completely?” asked board member Dave Sniffen.

Baumann said yes, and explained that the idea was hatched after a library staffer broached the fine-free policy idea a couple of years ago. “We talked about eliminating fines on kid’s materials. That was the initial request to me — that kid’s materials should not have fines.”

“Is this consistent with what other libraries are doing?” asked board member Gloria Redlich.

“It’s changing. Libraries are going fine free,” said Baumann, who noted that “board members are also fine free.”

“I’m taking out a book, and keeping it for a month,” quipped Sniffen. His comment elicited laughter from the other board members.

“It’s really a minor issue to me,” said board member Elizabeth Taylor. “And I really like the thought of being a welcoming, fine-free, amnesty library. So, let’s just vote to approve the policy.”

Baumann explained that the philosophical dilemma faced by going fine free is that patrons will no longer have a sense of urgency or the threat of being penalized for overdue materials. The fine for an overdue book is 10 cents a day, while movies are one dollar per day with a five-dollar charge limit.

“That’s a state policy,” she said. “You could have a movie for two weeks, but you would only pay five-dollars. But it could be five-dollars per movie, and that’s what stops people from using the library.”

Clerk Heidi Tarbox, and board member Tracy Heinz, asked Baumann if the fine-free policy would lead to people keeping material longer.

Baumann said patrons would be reminded that they have a piece of material that needs to be returned. “And if you lose a book, or other item, you have to pay for it.’

“With most of the collection we rarely have people waiting for things,” said Baumann. “The system will still work in that you cannot renew a book if someone is waiting for it. If there’s a hold on a book you can’t renew it,” she said, while noting “that the data that’s been collected says people will still abuse that. People abuse that now.”

Redlich said the fine-free policy “is consistent with an atmosphere of friendship and trust — because we value our patrons and trust them to do the right thing.”

At the other end of the spectrum, patrons who avoided the library for fear of incurring a fine, or were dissuaded by collection notices, will no longer have that concern when using the library.

Baumann told the board that when she received her library degree in 2008 “there were library directors who were fine free, speaking in classrooms and talking about how they had gone fine free with a donation jar on their desk. ‘The library is fine free; feel free to donate.’”

Jim Stevenson-inspired railing

The Trustees voted unanimously to affix a bronze plaque on the library’s façade near the soon-to-be-installed side entrance railing, denoting dedication to the late Jim Stevenson, a notable cartoonist and illustrator. The trustees agreed that the new railing, which will feature Stevenson’s artwork and is being designed, fabricated and installed by The Steel Yard, a Providence-based non-profit, would be installed in March.

Library Director’s evaluation

The trustees gave Baumann praise concerning her annual evaluation, which she opted to have discussed in open session. While Baumann noted in her self-evaluation that she needs to improve in several areas, including with building maintenance, and the library’s relationship with state and local town officials, board members, overall, felt that she has been doing solid work.

“I think you’re being hard on yourself,” said Sniffen. “You’re heading in the right direction,” he said, referring to her relationship with town and state officials, and the building’s maintenance.

“You’re never complacent,” said Taylor, noting that Baumann has a great relationship with the Friends of the Library. “You’re always looking for ways to push yourself.” She added: “Excellent work!”

“When I come to the library I feel a vibe,” said Feuer. “There’s good energy, and that’s a tribute to you. That’s so special. I’m in awe of what you do.”

Nolan said the library’s staff all gave her favorable reviews, but wanted her to hold formal staff meetings.

At the conclusion of the discussion, Baumann agreed to heed the board’s suggestion of meeting more regularly with Town Manager Ed Roberge and Facilities Manager Sam Bird to ensure proper building maintenance, as well as hold formal staff meetings.

In other news, the Board of Trustees accepted Gloria Redlich’s resignation from her un-expiring term, and reappointed Feuer and Sniffen to their seats.

The next library Trustees meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 18 at 6 p.m.