Tag Archives: community

St Paul Trash: Vote “Yes” for No Choice

St Paul Trash: Vote “Yes” for No Choice

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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Posting obvious information on neighborhood social networking service found to give community members generally good vibes

Though their presence hasn’t made quite as much of an impact globally as crafting an obvious Facebook post, posting obvious information and content on neighborhood social networking services has been found to give community members generally good vibes, and has been known to impact people positively, progressively, for the common good of the immediate neighborhood and its awareness.

Recently, an American consumer relations information website study of a random sample of various individuals from diverse community neighborhood social networking services of North America, in and around the greater Midwest, has found that posting obvious informational information, and content that may seem obvious, ironically, somewhat vaguely, is found to give positive feelings of relation to those reading said obvious posts.

Beyond a shadow of a doubt, if it weren’t for these community members posting and contributing on neighborhood social networking services rather than on their Facebooks, the neighborhoods where they reside, and hibernate, wouldn’t be nearly as enlightened or relevant. Posts relating to trash day delays, urban gardening, space heater dangers, zero waste initiatives, cutting cable, dog poisonings, grown from seed plants, and package thefts would not reach a local audience with such tangible impact.

So, rest assured, when you receive 10 – 15 email updates in your inbox in one day from those Next door, it is for a good cause, one which gives your community the feel of a progressive and positive environment, all from the relative safety of the internet, cathartically through persons on a couch or a futon. These notifications are not nuisances, they are paramount, and proven to spread good feelings far and wide on your block. It is time we thank those who share common sense as if it were a new scientific breakthrough, and keep the good vibes alive, one obvious adage at a time.

Showing Up is More Important

Photo by Kait Ripley (amateur photographer)

Photo by Kait Ripley (amateur photographer)

When I get an assignment back with excellent marks on it, I want to cry. I feel I don’t deserve it. Though, I feel at this point in my college career I only expect to get good grades. I have always tried my best, as hard as I can, yet I feel it is not good enough, and when I receive good marks I find it unbelievable. One time I turned in something and got a D- on it. I thanked the teacher in office hours for being objective, and I deserved it—still I aced the class. When I put out shit and still turn it in as my best, I get better marks than expected, better marks than in High School (which I should have failed out of). It is as if the rule books were thrown out for something more important than just a piece of paper. I am graded, I feel, on the art of just showing up.

For the past couple of weeks, months, years I have learned something, and throughout my college career this lesson has followed me. This lesson has been that showing up is more important than being a complete genius and acing the class via a test, or a project, or great work, or ass-kissery. It means more to the class as a whole, and to every single teacher, that you are in each class every day, no matter what. There are a million and five excuses a person could use, or employ: I could say anything—I am a doctor, you are sick; my dog died, my grandma died, my dad died (which did happen); my car broke down, my cat pissed on my homework, my bike got ran over; the bus was late; I am deathly ill, but why waste everyone’s time? Why waste your time? I know better, most people should, you know better.

When one person misses class the whole class misses that one person. Not like, “oh, sad, I miss that person,” but like, “fuck that person is not here, I am aware of their void.” The class loses that interaction, the missing hand raised, the unasked tangential question, the discussion that never happened. The previous list comes from easy excuses, lazy decisions to miss that one moment, it all matters in the long run. For example, you wouldn’t ask the bartender for a beer, pay for it—tip, and then not drink your refreshing beverage, would you? So, why would you register for classes, apply financial aid, deal with advising—pay for it all, and then not go?

If you really want to get an A at any point in your life, career, schooling, just show up (my GPA is 3.627, I am not boasting, I just show up). There are a million people with a million excuses, don’t be one of them, be the other guy. Be unique. Everyone can think of a lame ass excuse, it’s second nature—humans make mistakes, but don’t. Since I quit my shit-job washing dishes, where I was verbally abused, and came to University (in hopes of acquiring dental insurance, exclusively), I made it a point that each and every teacher would see my bright smile, and remember that bright smile when grading. The many times that my peers missed class, that smile would become brighter, more emblazoned in their minds; my teachers would be forced to reckon with it. My grade would inevitably go up, no matter what. They think: Oh, yeah, I remember Terry; big bright smile, ridiculous questions, yeah, I do… I thank my classmates for skipping (really, I do), being cool, or lazy. It really helps me out. And if your professor says they don’t grade on attendance, they are fucking lying.

From my first day of college until now, I can count the seldom days I have missed class and work, and on all of these days someone had a funeral, or a sick loved one to attend to. I won’t miss a day because I don’t want a day to miss me. You want to get ahead, be the person that is always in the same spot asking the same fucking stupid questions, the one that everyone looks at with a sideways glance, disdain, be that person, be brave. Be the person that no one can understand, because when it comes down to the end of the semester someone—the teacher, will most likely remember you for that, your name, your smile, your attentiveness to detail, your question that sparked a conversation, everything, and they will know that. Be part of the community you are in, the academic community, and your grade will work itself out. True story.