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Library overdue fines to double in the new year

Oct. 17, 2012

Overdue fees on books and other items will double beginning Jan. 1 following a decision last week by the Wauwatosa Public Library Board of Trustees.

The board voted unanimously to support a recommendation by Library Director Mary Murphy to increase the fine on overdue books and compact discs from 10 cents per day to 20 cents per day in the new year. In addition, the board increased the fines on DVD and VHS items from 50 cents to $1 per day, but extended the lending period on those items from three days to one week.

The lending period on books and CDs will remain unchanged at 21 days, with a three-day grace period. Fines are imposed after the grace period. There is no grace period on DVDs and VHS videocassettes.

Murphy said she was encouraged to make the change at the urging of the Budget Committee last month. At the same meeting, committee members said they would look at other ways to find additional funding for the library's book budget if there are surpluses in 2013.

"I was surprised that they spent as much time on the library budget as they did," Murphy told the board. "There was very strong support for an increase to the book budget."

Overdue fines for books have been at 10 cents a day for 17 years. For this year, fees and fines are expected to bring in $89,000, about 3.4 percent of total library revenues. The figure has dropped steadily in recent years, especially after the Milwaukee County Federated Library System began sending email reminders to library patrons as items came due.

In moving rates up, Wauwatosa would join the North Shore Public Library at the 20-cent rate. The Waukesha Public Library has moved its rate up to 25 cents per day. In Milwaukee County, Milwaukee, Shorewood, Whitefish Bay, Brown Deer, and Greenfield have rates at 15 cents per day.

West Allis, Oak Creek, Cudahy, Greendale, Hales Corners, South Milwaukee and St. Francis have rates at 10 cents a day. These rates were taken from library web sites, which may not reflect recent changes.

The Milwaukee County Federated Library System requires a 30-day notice before rate changes can take effect, Murphy said. Library trustees decided to wait longer, until the new year, to give the library a chance to post signs and notify patrons.

Library app may change

In related news, Murphy reported on a pending switch in a library application for mobile devices from one called Library Anywhere, paid for by the county system, to an app called Boopsie, which libraries in the system would have to pay for themselves - a small symptom of the financial pressures county libraries face.

For Wauwatosa, the charge would be $1,000 a year. To make the change, all the libraries in the county system would have to agree to join, but the West Allis Public Library has balked, saying they don't have the funds, Murphy said.

Libraries in the system are studying solutions, including possibly chipping in to cover the West Allis fee, she said.

"The circumstances from our library to another are very different, and the way libraries use their book budgets is very different," Murphy said.

Even in collections within the county, there are wide cultural differences, she said. For example, she noted that Shorewood has Russian literature to serve a Russian cultural community, while south side libraries feature Spanish titles.

"The populations they serve are very different," she said.

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