Why library late fees make complete sense

If library fines are, as the American Library Association has suggested, “a form of social inequity,” then personal responsibility is truly a lost cause.

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Patrons inside the Chicago Public Library branch in Chinatown.

Rich Hein/Sun-Times file photo

Kudos on your editorial, “If Chicago libraries are dropping late fees, show the proof it’s best for kids.” I admire your courage in stating, “We believe in personal responsibility — that’s the rub — and there’s a good argument that people can avoid library late fees just by getting books back on time.”

Given Chicago’s annual revenue ($875,000) from library fines, apparently they are not a barrier for everyone. And Chicago will continue to bill people for books and other materials not returned, and lock them out when they do not pay. I applaud your call for hard evidence that Chicago’s plan is working.

Overdue fees have been part of library practice for generations, and since 1882 in Batavia, when the fine rate was 2 cents per day. One reason relates to good stewardship. A 1989 issue of The Bottom Line: A Financial Magazine for Libraries, noted, “Fees such as overdue charges … are based on the economic concept of opportunity cost. When one library client keeps a book beyond the due date, there may be another client who is inconvenienced by waiting longer for it than expected.”

The purpose of overdue fines, then and now, is to remove this service barrier for patrons.

That said, some libraries, such as Chicago, consider fines only a financial barrier to service. According to CBS Chicago, another suburban library that dropped fines has reported that its books “stay out longer now — meaning they are not available to other patrons.”

As you noted in your editorial, “A major ‘policy objective’ of the American Library Association is the ‘removal of all barriers to library and information services.’” One wonders whether this bold statement includes those dual barriers of inconvenience and lost opportunity.

If library fines are, as ALA has suggested, “a form of social inequity”  — which is as doubtful today as it was in 1989 or 1882 — then personal responsibility, the bane of many in the 21st century, is truly a lost cause, not to mention good stewardship.

But not everywhere.

Batavia, a highly successful public library, has taken a different approach. It now renews items automatically, resulting in fewer overdue items and thus fewer fines. Batavia’s loan period is 28 days for most items, items are renewed automatically up to two times, and the daily fine rate is only 10 cents for most items.

We believe in good stewardship. We believe in personal responsibility.

George H. Scheetz, director, Batavia Public Library

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Trump’s inept governing on health care

I’m a Medicare recipient who favored Medicare for All until I realized that much of the country wouldn’t accept the idea of eliminating private or employer health insurance plans.

Maybe the “for All” plan might work as an option, if there was enough taxpayer money to support it. The best bet is to improve the Affordable Care Act, which Republicans in Congress have tried to repeal for almost 10 years.

In all that time, opponents of former President Barack Obama have failed to come up with a workable replacement for his plan. Yet President Donald Trump, the most notorious Obama attacker, has tried to abolish Obamacare via a federal lawsuit.

But now Trump and his legal team seek to delay a court ruling on Obamacare until after the 2020 election, having realized that if they win, it would leave millions without health coverage and turn them into anti-Trump voters.

What we need is healthy insurance. What we don’t need is inept governing.

Eddie Stone, Northbrook

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