Making The Transition to A Fines Free Environment?

Making The Transition to A Fines Free Environment?

Many libraries are currently considering the adoption of fines-free policies as a way to increase the rate of return of overdue materials. Are you ready to be a fine-free library?

Indeed, adjusting fine structure or creating a fines-free policy, may be an effective strategy for getting books back on shelves.

      • More materials returned.

      • Patrons restored to good standing with full access to all Library services.

      • And staff engaging patrons without having to collect money—easier for everyone!

And, regardless of fine structure, Unique’s Gentle Nudge® patron contacts will continue to reach those few patrons who have not responded to the library’s internal texts, emails, phone calls and even mailed notices appealing for the return of overdue items.

How to become a fine-free library

Many of our clients have asked what other libraries are doing once they implement a fines-free structure. Here are a few suggestions that our fine-less customers have adopted:

      • Request a sync report from Unique once you have removed old fines. Many libraries have gone through patron accounts and removed old fines. Unique wants to ensure that the balances at the library match the balances here at Unique.  Unique will adjust these changes and continue contacting patrons to return materials.
      • Shorten the timing of when accounts are submitted to Unique. – The vast majority of libraries choosing to go Fines Free realize the heightened importance of prompt notification.  To counter the tendency for patrons to hold onto materials longer, the timing of overdue, billing, and referral to material recovery is typically moved up to reflect the following: 1st overdue at day 1, 2nd overdue at 7-10, bill around day 21, and Unique sometime between day 30 and 45.
      • Be sure to change the internal notices and Unique’s material recovery letters and call center processes to reflect that you are implementing a fines-free policy.  Your customer service representative at Unique is happy to help change the wording for gentle letters and calls that reflect your library no longer charges fines.
      • Run a report of the outstanding value of materials and lower the threshold amount submitted to Unique. Unique’s Regular Balance minimum is $25. For those libraries already submitting at the $25 minimum, consider Unique’s Small Balance Program to help recover materials from where the patron’s account has a block (usually $5 or $10) to the threshold of $24.99.  Many of our clients that have discontinued fines now want to get items back based on how long the item has been overdue as opposed to how few items are outstanding. Please contact your customer service representative for more information on lowering the threshold.

Unique continues to serve over 1,800 libraries, some of which have always had a fines-free policy and some that recently discontinued fines.  Unique is as vital as ever in helping to recover long- overdue materials while maintaining patron goodwill and we are forever grateful to our clients for our many successful years of service.