No more fines at JDC public libraries

Published 11:08 am Wednesday, February 23, 2022

The Board of Trustees of the South Mississippi Regional Library System, which includes the Prentiss Public Library and the Dr. Frank L. Leggett Public Library in Bassfield,  are pleased to announce that, as of Jan. 1, the library system will no longer charge late finesfor overdue materials.

Traditionally, late fines were charged to encourage patrons to return library materials in a timely manner so that they would be available for more patrons. However, in recent years, libraries across the nation have raised the argument that fines may create a barrier to patrons accessing services due to economic reasons.

When the Columbia-Marion County branch closed in December 2019 due to tornado damage, library staff were instructed to waive all late fines of materials currently out for loan. Then, in March 2020, when the entire library system participated in the mandatory pandemic shut down, rest of the library system began enforcing the same directive. Over the course of the next year and a half, as the library fluctuated from complete closures, to curb-side only, to restricted access, and finally re-opening fully, staff continued to waive fines.

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At their Nov. 9, 2021, meeting, the Board of Trustee members reviewed data on fine collection for the five years prior to the pandemic and came to the conclusion that fines did not constitute a significant portion of the library’s revenue. “Our board members were happy to eliminate any barrier to individuals in our community receiving the full array of services the library has to offer,” states director Ryda Worthy. “We invite anyone who may have old late fees on their account to come see us, so that we can get their account active again.” The library will continue to charge for lost or damaged items.

The five members of the SMRL Board of Trustees are appointed by the Marion and Jefferson Davis County Board of Supervisors and serve a five-year term. All library policies are adopted by the board and are available to the public at each library branch location.