In a speech given recently, President Trump is seen in this unbelievably, insanely shocking photo that he probably doesn’t want you to see at any time ever! He appears, unhinged, it’s newsworthy, this photo, absolutely.
Up until the new year I was a fine-paying public library patron, as many people in St Paul were. I paid my fines, it was painful, it didn’t seem fair, but I paid them. This was the case up until recently when St Paul Public Libraries went “fine free”. The fines I paid over the years happened because had I forgotten or I didn’t have the time to turn in materials. Each time I thought: next time, I would remember to bring my materials in before they were overdue, given the opportunity. I would change for the better from this lesson. However, there won’t be next time in St Paul, these fine events are something many people will no longer experience. And in being unable to accrue library fines in St Paul, I found out that lack of in-depth research and hopeful positive intentions are perhaps why it is that way. Let me share with you some research on the topic and you decide on fines or no fines at the public library, what you learn through data from fines studies may surprise you, I was certainly surprised.
The St Paul Public Library’s “Fine Free” webpage asks the question: Why go fine free?” and they answer: “It’s good for our community. Our community is stronger and healthier when people have access to the programs, services, and materials they need to pursue their educational, career, family, and life goals. We hope this will encourage prior users to come back to the library and attract new users to experience our offerings.” All of these hopes and aspirations may have good intentions, but does ending fines and fees at the public library help our community? Does it make our community stronger and healthier? Does it allow for more programs, services, and materials that patrons need to pursue their educational, career, and life goals? Let’s look at a few studies and find out.
On the St Paul Public Library’s (SPPL) website (https://sppl.org/about-fine-free/) it states that: “Late fines are not effective. Studies have shown that small fines have no impact on return rates. According to “Removing Barriers to Access,” a Colorado State Library whitepaper: “The scant research on the impact of library fines and fees does not indicate a clear benefit to administering these polices and may be costly to enforce.” This line is directly taken from “Removing Barriers to Access” research which is not a peer reviewed journal, which ironically, provides many references to prove the ineffectiveness of fines while providing zero references on the effectiveness of fines and fees, further suggesting there is more than “scant research” and perhaps exposing an information bias.
Moreover, SPPL’s “Fine Free” webpage cites this single study on the effectiveness of fines and fees, but there has to be more to the story than “scant research”. Simply suggesting with a broad generalization that there is a lack of research on library fines does not prove that those fines are ineffective–or effective, especially when citing only one study. This study proves that one side of the argument might show a result happened in this single study or other case studies under certain conditions, based on other studies with the same opinion, but fail to mention any benefits of fines and fees. Nothing to change policy on, more information is needed, right?
In an attempt to retrieve more information I found the study SPPL offers is only one of at least a few studies on the topic; each with a somewhat different conclusion, making any decision on eliminating fines premature.
A study at The Journal of Librarianship (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.acalib.2013.08.011) shows the opposite may be true about eliminating fines: “The results indicate that fines indeed make a difference in patron book return behavior. Patrons who borrowed books under a fines policy returned books before due dates at a statistically significantly higher rate. As a result of this study, it is determined that a fines policy is an effective tool to ensure that books are returned on time and available to the maximum number of library users.” The maximum number of library users sounds like a lot of people who would be positively impacted by fines and fees. This data being acknowledged, the debate over library fines is far from a conclusion.
Another interesting point related to financial resources is cited on SPPL’s website: “It’s fiscally responsible. Due to the rise in electronic materials (which do not accrue late fines) and other factors, fines are not a sustainable form of revenue for the library. Money collected from fines and fees has gone down steadily for the past 10 years.”, no source was cited with this information. Yet, a study from Bowling Green State University, Fine Efficacy: An Experimental Study of the Effect of Daily Fines on Borrower Return Habits (https://libguides.bgsu.edu/fine-research) indicates that “eliminating fines caused a 33% decline in revenue generated, despite increasing reserve fines and billing fees to compensate for the loss of daily fine payments They also saw a small increase in number of books that became overdue, even though loan periods had been extended.” This data is compelling considering modern libraries need all of the funding resources they can acquire to provide the valuable resources and services to our communities.
Now, I ask: to what end is SPPL eliminating fines and fees when there is counter-research that suggestsµ doing so could create a negative outcome? To look good? Good intentions abound but there is lack of evidence that the practice of ending fines or making libraries “fine free” does anything to improve or expand the community readership, patron satisfaction, or even benefit those who no longer accrue fines at any income level. What happens when patrons can no longer check out a book because it is drastically overdue or assumed lost, and that higher cost to cover a new book is not paid, what costs will the library incur to replace that material resource and have it sent out in a timely manner, if at all? These are some questions undiscussed, seemingly brushed over.
When taking an assortment of library fines and fees studies into account, perhaps, it is safe to say that there is more research needed and necessary to responsibly change policy within public libraries, especially if it has the potential to decrease fiscal resources for library functions and increase the number of overdue books, essentially limiting those resources for fellow patrons. Forgiving fines may remove a great lesson from our society, it may show that punctuality and holding to a plan, and having responsibility, is an outdated practice. But eliminating fines may prove beneficial, and create more access. Either way we must keep learning in order to understand the weight of decisions on such important institutions, both sides have plenty to check out.
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*** SPOILER ALERT ***
Last night I saw a movie for the first time in years. That movie was Annihilation. I had little prior knowledge of the film before seeing it. I didn’t see a trailer. I didn’t read a review. I just went and saw it with my wife. Here is the gist.
As a disclaimer I will admit I enjoyed this film. I enjoyed going to a movie for the first time in a long time. It was great, minus the idiot on his phone in the row in front of us. It was a pleasure. Thank you for reading my review of Annihilation.
Best Shot: The best shot in this film, aside from all of the visually stunning flora and fauna, is at about the midpoint when the team of experts stumbles upon a mess hall. They find a video of some sick death by a cadet before them. The crew finds the scene of his death has turned an abandoned swimming pool into an explosion of colors and what appears to be mold. This grotesquely morbid end creates creates and aesthetic I have rarely seen in films. Like zombie ants with fungus shooting from their heads. Like mummies on display. This was the best shot in my opinion. Although everything seems to sparkle and shimmer in alien phosphorescence.
Worst Shot: Spoiler alert the worsts shot is at the end when the alien in the lighthouse pirouettes the main character. It’s far too long. Far too played out. I have seen in before. It adds very little. We know that the alien is trying to mirror the humans before this point in the film. Also, the shots of the extra-marital affair involving the main character. This affair does nothing to move the plot.
Plot: Perhaps we have reached a point in the sci-fi cannon when all ideas have been exhausted to the point at which we just basically are trying to understand us, while realizing there is nothing out there beyond us. Perhaps. The pedestrian alien in Annihilation are basically the same alien in Signs, or any other cartoon alien–except for with a smaller head and limited facial features. Aliens are still somewhat green and still somewhat humanoid and thinking. However, these aliens may not understand the ideological concept of “want”, “wanting”, or “preference”. The just do. They just change. For whatever reason, it’s never really explained.
Takeaway: Annihilation is visually appealing, it’s visually appealing like Prometheus. The film offers moments of tender human relations, marriage, and longing. It also bring a bit of horror with a monster bear and the idea of going nuts in a world where, or in a bubble–ironically for our times, a bubble, where those around you are going clearly mad. Changing from one thing to another irregardless of the individuals intentions. These things happen. Like biology, I guess. Near the end of the movie the main point shows through: things change for the simple reason that they can. Outside alien entities change us for their reasons and their reasons are unknown. That’s basically it. Annihilation poses more questions than it answers while still making me thing a little bit but not offering much novel idea. It was an entertaining flick, but it has some explaining to do, and of course a work cited may be necessary in the credits.
This week has changed my life. Events unfolded and I became apart of the solution. This fix took up a week, and a majority of my time allotted for other projects. But the things I did learn through experience taught me one thing– oh, and finding pennies and Easter Eggs throughout let me know that I was where I was supposed to be, like everyone else is–it taught me to take it as it comes. Be where I am when I am right here right now.
Firstly, events take place, happen, go down, and unfold beyond our humanly control. (I read a tweet about this: worry is a waste of time, the past is the past, we cannot worry about things we cannot change, etc.) I understand I cannot change the past I can only change the future, hopefully. In this new “special project” I have found that positivity is the only way to move forward together. We must move onward positively together. Getting down or bummed or saddened about something will only hamper your forward progress.
Secondly, everywhere I went this week I was met with a smile–or by the end of the meeting, a smile had fixed a frown or a grimace, at least in most cases. Furthermore, I kept finding pennies placed throughout my experiences. I got lost, found a penny. Someone needed me to do an alternative task, I found a penny. At the train station, found a penny. In this, I don’t believe pennies are lucky. But if I find a lot of pennies, a lot of pennies add up. Or maybe god is buying me a beer, I have no way to knowing. Also, these finds act like checkpoints for my life. Look for your pennies and you will see dollars. Then retrace your steps along that path, how did you come by three cents?! WOW! 🙂
The most important part to all of this is the worry factor. I read this last night, for a moment. The last few days, I saw people worried, upset, and frustrated. I stayed calm. I have no idea how. I just stayed calm and collected. Because it is how we act during times of uncertainty that matter most. (Someone famous said that, or something similar). Beyond the stress, the unpredictability, I was learning something unique, something new. Something different. It didn’t matter what; but if you are doing something different from your regular routine, you are learning something new. Remember that in a shitty situation that you have never had to deal with before.
Some people could say their week was a wash, many others could call it a major success. And the point here is, this is every week, could be every moment. They did something. They made something happen. The reason this contrast is important is because we can see life in this way every day, or in another way. One day it is shit. One day it is good. Four letters, two different ideas completely. Why can’t they all be good? Why can’t we make it as such? And I think we can. Thought I would share.
You have made it here, right where are you are supposed to be. Now go look for your pennies.
There is a way to travel back in time already, I figured it out in deep thought yesterday. (It’s been outlawed by mankind though.) A person would simply need two massive space drones, some poles, and a camera. Basically, just attach the drones to the axis of the earth, halt it from spinning, then set to work spinning it backwards. Simple, easy. I think we already all know this.
The problem with this idea is that time is relative. It’s not that it doesn’t work–that we couldn’t go back in time, but it would be nearly impossible to set it straight to a direct time. Imagine setting an analog watch, no watch is exactly on time. Greenwich isn’t ever on time. Time is relative. SO how fast or slow we spin and where we end up is a gamble.
This time machine idea would impact the entire world, as it would alter the entire world. No one is ready for that change. We can’t even agree on politics. Stopping the world for someone in the prime of their life to go back to your prime would ultimately not be a good deal for the former. There is too much riding on it. End of discussion. Call it insane, impossible.
It’s already been done though, we have gone back in time. We have interpreted and created our dead ones again: look at museums. We are there. The technology is there. Two drones, some poles and a camera. Stop the world and spin it backwards. That is how we create what a time machine would create. How we change time. The camera is how we know what the past looks like. Don’t agree? Prove me wrong.