This year, I pushed for a “Fresh Start” fine amnesty for the teens, & with several meetings & lots of finagling with various policies, we made it happen!
Our idea for this was that there are lots of teens who can’t use their cards because of old fines or because of family issues, & quite frankly, that sucks! Our library is in a very high-poverty area, & as soon as they hit $25 in fines, they’re “sent” to collections. In some cases, that’s one book with some extra in overdue fines, & if you have no money, you definitely can’t pay it off. Add that to the fact that we can’t actually collect money from minors in collections, & we’re looking at a lot of money sitting that we’re never going to get. We went into meetings overflowing with positive vibes & just about everyone agreed! Some kinks needed worked out, but overall, it went swimmingly!
Here’s how it worked:
1. We offered this at every library location during Teen Read Week.
2. Because of how our library card policies are, we could only include teens ages 13-17.
3. I created a brief survey, & every teen with fines could fill it out & return it to our circulation desk to see if they were eligible.
4. We decided that we would waive up to $50 in fines.
5. Teens who did not have a card any more could have a new card free of charge, in addition to the $50 fine waiver.
6. As this is a one-time-only fresh start, the code “TRW2011” was added to their records. (I’m definitely hoping to make this an annual thing)
7. At our library, if any member of the family is in collections, we block all cards. For teens who could no longer use their cards because of this, if they completed the survey, they were unlinked & given access once more.
Over our five branches, bookmobile, & main location, we had about three dozen teens participate & waived approximately $1000 in fines. So many of my “regular” teens who are constantly here can check out books once more, & it’s just so thrilling to see happy teens checking out stacks of new stuff!