The Monona Public Library announced Wednesday it will no longer charge fees for overdue items.

Charging small fines burdens users and discourages library use in an era when people are presented with so many media options, said Erick Plumb, the library's director.

The measure goes into effect Monday.

"We'll be losing about $10,000 by giving up fines, but we think that having more people use our services and the goodwill that it will generate, it will spark increased support for us," Plumb said.

The Monona Library Board of Trustees voted unanimously to approve the change Dec. 20. The library will be only the second library in the South Central Library System to go fine-free, joining Middleton's library.

"It's kind of counter-intuitive to give up money in this really difficult budget year, but we think that Monona has been so supportive of us that on the community support level and on the budget level, we can try this, and if it doesn't work we can change it," Plumb said.

Library patrons will still get overdue notices if materials are two weeks past due. And if materials become a month overdue, the library will threaten to charge for the items. Plumb said he hoped that would prompt the user to just return the item.

The Monona library hasn't historically charged late fees on children's items, and Plumb has found there hasn't been much difference between when children's materials get returned and when adult materials do.

"What we've seen is that people don't necessarily need to be fined to bring them back," Plumb said.

Pamela Westby, director of the Middleton Public Library, has observed the same thing at her library, which went fee-less in the 1970s under the direction of Julie Anne Chase, who is now the Dane County librarian.

"As far as what motivates patrons to return their items, I think generally people are good people, and I don't think the number of overdue books we have out exceeds other libraries proportionately," Westby said. "Ten cents a day or a nickel a day isn't going to motivate people necessarily to return items."

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