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The Salt Lake City Library Board has voted unanimously to eliminate late fees, which the system's executive director says disproportionately affect the disadvantaged.
In a meeting last week with The Salt Lake Tribune's editorial board, City Library Executive Director Peter Bromberg said he was taking a Lyft while in Atlanta for a library conference when he asked his driver what she thought about libraries.
She told him she grew up loving her library, but now, with three kids ages 7 to 15, the late fees were "like having an extra credit card bill that we couldn't afford at the end of the month."
Bromberg said an outsize portion of library cards blocked for financial reasons in Salt Lake City's network came at the low end of the socioeconomic scale, at the west side's Chapman and Glendale branches.
"We're hitting the people who need us most the hardest," he said.
The City Library previously charged 20 cents per day for overdue books and 50 cents per day for movies, with maximums of $6 per book and $10 per DVD. It will leave in place a lost charge that patrons would have to pay if they did not return the materials after a series of notifications.
Bromberg said libraries nationwide are doing away with fines and finding that while return rates are unchanged, "usage goes up [and] people come back to the library."
A hidden cost of enforcing late fees is the time library staff spend engaged in "the most negative experience for both staff and patrons," Bromberg said: arguing about owed money.
He anticipated a $75,000 loss in fine revenues 0.3 percent of the library's $22.4 million budget, according to a news release.
The board's 8-0 vote comes as the City Library seeks nearly $4 million in new property tax revenues in its 2017-18 budget costing the average Salt Lake City homeowner an additional $20 per year for increased operation costs, long-term maintenance and improvements to security and cleanliness.