NEW ALBANY, Ind. (WDRB) -- Many people have had to pay those dreaded library fines, and over time, they can really add up. But anyone who uses the New Albany-Floyd County Public Library will never have to worry about that again.

Director Melissa Merida said as a gesture of goodwill, the library's new policy has eliminated late fees.

"It's very much become something that libraries across the U.S. are looking at," Merida said. "Do fines accomplish what we set out for them to do 40 or 50 years ago, or are they a deterrent for people to use the public library?"

Merida said fines can keep patrons from returning books because they don't have the money or don't want to pay up.

"What we're really focusing on is bringing the books back so that you maintain accessibility to the resources that we have, which is really a more proactive, positive approach, rather than punitive." she said.

A lot of it came down to simple dollars and sense. Officials decided to look at the library's books, and they discovered they were spending far more in sending out notices for overdue books than they were making in collecting fines. In fact, they shelled-out $13,000 last year.

"It costs about $7.10 per item to get that fine returned to us," Merida said. "And the fine maximum is $5. So it didn't make cost-effective sense."

But there is still a price for not returning items. If patrons have something more than four weeks overdue, they won't be able to check out any thing else until it's returned. And the library said if you have more than $50 worth of items out that long, it will begin collections. But even then, all is forgiven if the items are returned.

Wendey Waggoner, who said she's notoriously late returning items, said she's thrilled.

"I brought some things back, and I said 'I'm sorry these are late.  How much do I owe?'" Waggoner said. "Because I wanted to check out a new book. And they said 'Oh, we've eliminated late fees.'  And I said, 'Oh, that's so great. Thank you.'

"It makes be feel more positive about the library. You don't feel like a criminal anymore."

It's been more than two months since the library dropped the late fees, but Merida said it's still too soon to know just how big of an impact it's having.

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