Elkhart Library officials pleased with fine-free policy for kids

Elkhart Truth file photo Elkhart Public Library’s policy of eliminating fines on overdue materials for kids and young adults removes one barrier to improving student literacy, officials said Tuesday. 

ELKHART — By eliminating overdue fines on materials for kids and young adults, Elkhart Public Library has removed a roadblock to improving student literacy, advocates say. 

Since the policy change in the spring of 2019:

n Nearly 100 more young people each month have come into the library with a clean slate for borrowing

n The number of new and returning cardholders under the age of 13 has increased 26.2 percent

n Compared with data from the past three summer reading programs, the number of items checked out in the relevant categories is up 10.7 percent

“We’ve created an incentive for people to come into the library. We’ve created an incentive for people to keep items longer. We’ve created an incentive for people to access the library after they’ve returned an item,” said Mickey Wagner, director of elementary education for Concord Community Schools and a member of the library’s board of trustees. “I’m pleased with how it’s working.”

Going fine-free is part of the wider Elkhart Public Library campaign to help every child be ready to read and succeed by Grade 3. That initiative is part of EPL’s 2019-21 strategic plan, and other actions include collaborating more with teachers, getting more books into homes, creating more inviting library spaces for children, and taking stories into the community to develop a greater excitement for reading.

Prior to board action eliminating fines, 1,337 cardholders under 18 were blocked from checking out Elkhart materials because they owed more than $10. In the first six months since “fine free” was implemented, that number has been reduced by 40 percent.

Goshen Public Library, working in partnership with EPL, also took action to eliminate overdues on kids and young adult materials. While fines have been eliminated in both library systems, borrowers of all ages still are responsible for paying to replace lost and unreturned books and movies.

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