Tag Archives: Books

The Best Books for Getting Out of Debt

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Are “Fine Free” Public Libraries Really Better For the City of St Paul?

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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BREAKING NEWS: No Study Ever finds that your Life is Fated by Pennies, People, and Problems

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.

Millennials, Strive for that Perfect Selfie because You will Never get out of Debt and You Will Never own Your Own Home Responsibly

“The more he identifies with the dominant images of need, the less he understands his own life and his own desires. The spectacle’s estrangement from the acting subject is expressed by the fact that the individual’s gestures are no longer his own; they are the gestures of someone else who represents them to him.”
― Guy DebordThe Society of the Spectacle

“The spectacle is the nightmare of imprisoned modern society which ultimately expresses nothing more than its desire to sleep. The spectacle is the guardian of sleep.”
― Guy DebordThe Society of the Spectacle

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The headline you just read is what I think to myself when I realize I shouldn’t spend money and should save for my future interests, especially when my contemporaries scroll social media and see how others are living large and in charge and strive to be just like them.

(Firstly, social media is an affirmation to spend more money, and waste more time.  Do you have it in you?)

I am pretty sure the people around me are concerned about my one point of obsession, my now goal: paying off all of my debt. My motivation being: Because I am a slave to debtors, credit card companies own me, my student loans own me, I really don’t exist freely…  What keeps me going in this direction:  Good reasons.

Good reasons:  Some day I will own my own house, responsibly–not through some insane mortgage.  Some day I will be out of debt, entirely: zero debt.  Some day I won’t have to work every day to pay my bills, no worries.  I will retire with dignity.  And again, those around me will benefit from my now goals, from my relatively insane efforts, from sacrifices I make.

These sacrifices are easier than the alternative for me, of living in debt for the rest of my life, chipping away at what I one minimum payment, all that high interest at a time.  That is stupid.  That is something that could use distractions!

It’s hard and easy for me to imagine that there is a world out there stranded glaring into their phones at millions of other people acting out their fantasies–Millennials et al., taking photos, images of a luxury lifestyle that is nothing more than made up. IT DOES NOT EXIST.

Imagine if we could get paid for that time spent glaring at other people’s dreams… We’d all be as rich as Hillary Clinton, Jimmy Buffet, Steve Jobs, or Donald Trump.

I really shouldn’t care about the setting or the background or how long it took for another person to get that perfect photo, the perfect selfie, and all those likes, although it worries me. I care, imagine.  That is my philanthropy for the day: caring.

(Your debt is that train in the “perfect selfie” video above, maybe doing the same to you as you read.  Stay off of those tracks that lead you, or the future you, into imminent danger.)

The first thing I think about when I see pictures of people doing AMAZING things is, how much debt does that person actually have, credit cards, student loans, etc.? I know, it’s none of my business, but for science…  Then I wonder, does all that debt add up to contrived happiness, the happiness in that picture, imagines on a screen, unfocused a distracted ephemera of fleeting feeling… Does it come from that?

(A hobby of imagining your existence is entirely different from what it is?  Doing this doesn’t cause change, it avoids it.)

And we compare ourselves to those counterfeit images, those freewheeling fantasies, those nice narrative and salacious story lines… Am I as good as that other person’s selfie?  No, no, I am not… Should I be spending more money, should I be buying into this false pretense?  Do I give a shit?

Then I vanish from social media and that apathetic society that we all pay to join in some way or another. I vanish because we all should and walk back into the deep woods to find our inner animal selves, or into a deep sleep.  Beasts called gentlemen in suits and ties pretending to be anything other than ourselves.

(When we die our Facebook us’s keep on living.  Is that me?  For example, my father died four years ago in June and he unfriended me on Facebook a couple of years after that.  He is virtually still alive, however he is physically dead.  I don’t know if he sleeps anymore.  I cannot visit his grave because my reality does not understand this sort of paradox.  Social media creates dead and living zombies right now.  Imagine.)

So, yes, back to the beginning, you will never get out of debt or own your own home, responsibly–without insane lenders and bad deals, if you keep this up.  That is what I tell myself and then avoiding those distractions becomes very easy for me. You as in me.

Forget your likes, upvotes, retweets, highlights from whatever years ago, virtual memories, Facebook lives, and other people’s selfies, they evoke no artistic value whatsoever (or maybe they do: this mini-essay tho.).  Think about what you owe that credit card company, what you owe in student loans? Try to smile now, make that art, Picasso. Get that photo sing.  Real good job.  Create those American Dreams.

Book Review: Win Bigly 

Less is More, so many generalizations

Recently, I have come under the idea that less is more. I’ve been reading Walden on Wheels. I have been seeing that what I have, too much, is very too much. I want out of it. I say now, less is more, less is more. This is so true.

This realization started after reading The Millionaire Nextdoor, a book about being frugal. A book about just living with less, not overspending, and living on the means that you have, and becoming a millionaire.

I set new goals because of it. I want nothing. I want to have nothing but liquid security in wealth. The lesson I learned is be prepared for anything and don’t live beyond your means. Keep an even keel. Sail your boat and don’t sink.

Yes, I do believe less is more… So I give you less words. But I must admit it. I am starting to like the idea of having less and feeling it more. As Dave Ramsey says (I have been listening to his podcast) “Live like no one else and you can live like no one else.”

I am ready to live like no one else. Have been for some time. I always felt like a nonconformist. Now I can prove it in actions. No more too much. No more overspending. We all owe it to ourselves to get ourselves right first. Then we can help everyone else. But only then.

How America Medicates Gun Violence

What if it’s not guns causing these senseless acts of violence, but rather the prescription medications that the offenders are on to combat a “mental illness”?

Few media outlets focus on this aspect in a thorough respect–or some do, but only in passing. This is most likely because of sponsorship money in ads and programming from manufacturers of pharmaceuticals themselves.

Take a deeper look before you step on that soapbox, or swallow that solution. Read the ads, read the stories, look into those paying for the message… Do this when you grab a magazine or newspaper or turn on the television or scroll a page. You can see what they are really all about, it’s hidden in plain sight.

You have a problem, we have the solution: best marketing scheme ever. Or this violence is unrelated, truly.

Have you ever thought of that?

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(inspired by) See: www.noagendashow.com