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OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — The Metropolitan Library System (MLS) is forgiving past fines and starting a fine-free pilot program to give more people access to library materials and devices for check-out.

Starting Wednesday the MLS will forgive fines for overdue materials as long as you bring them back. If the items have been lost, then you will have to pay for the items so the MLS can replace them.

And starting Thursday, the library system started their year-long pilot program to compare differences in use between their prior years of using fines to incentivize the return of checked-out materials and the year of going fine-free.

Overcoming barriers

“I think one of our roles and responsibilities here is to overcome any barriers to access information,” said Michelle Merriman with MLS at the Downtown Library. She talked to Free Press about the reasoning behind the pilot program.

“When we keep people from being able to check out materials for school,” Merriman said. “It affects students and affects people who need resources to do job searches, or learn new skills for work.”

In their news release Wednesday, MLS emphasized the importance of access.

We want you to use the library, and overdue fines are a barrier to access. To meet the information needs of our communities, we are committed to reducing barriers to access. Fine forgiveness and going fine free help us achieve that commitment.”

Abigail Stout, another MLS staff member at the Downtown Library, talked with us about the larger effects of owing fines.

“It doesn’t just affect the physical material,” Stout said. “It affects our resources as well. Like, you don’t have access at all. People can get on and search the internet in a library location but they can’t check anything out.”

“Here at downtown we have numerous customers whose accounts are blocked,” said Stout. “So, they only come for the computer and they consistently ask can they check out? And they can’t.”

MLS reminds anyone who might be skeptical that other library systems have gone fine-free and have found that their loss of materials changed little but gave more access to those who have used the library in the past and want to again.

Limited

The fine-free program is only for MLS-owned materials. Exceptions are for technology such as hotspots, Chromebooks, laptops, iPads, and Experience Passes.

The program also does not apply for interlibrary loan materials that belong to other library systems.

Other types of support

MLS encourages anyone who is concerned about the loss of fine money the system will endure to give directly to the library system.

Visit supportmls.org to learn about contributing to the Friends of the Metropolitan Library System and/or to the Library Endowment Trust.


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Last Updated July 2, 2021, 12:03 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor