Latest News

A librarian’s case against overdue book fines | Dawn Wacek

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • LinkedIn

Libraries have the power to create a better world; they connect communities, promote literacy and spark lifelong learners. But there's one thing that keeps people away: the fear of overdue book fines. In this thought-provoking talk, librarian Dawn Wacek makes the case that fines don't actually do what we think they do. What if your library just … stopped asking for them altogether?

Check out more TED Talks:

The TED Talks channel features the best talks and performances from the TED Conference, where the world's leading thinkers and doers give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes (or less). Look for talks on Technology, Entertainment and Design — plus science, business, global issues, the arts and more.

Follow TED on Twitter:
Like TED on Facebook:

Subscribe to our channel:

56 Comments on A librarian’s case against overdue book fines | Dawn Wacek

  1. Discover Your Awesomeness // 6th December 2018 at 3:56 pm // Reply

    *It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything!*


  3. What does the librerian always says?


  4. If you are looking for ransom I can tell you I don’t have money, but what I dohave are a very particular set of skills.Skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you return the book that’ll be the end of it

  5. Interesting Talk…Thanks for that..

  6. I worked at my county library for ten years and most of the head librarians didn’t care anything about the fines, and would rather not have dealt with them. They would rather have a book checked out and kept then sit for years on shelves and never opened. “Censorship” by the way is a dirty word with librarians.

    We never blocked anyone for late fees. We might limited the number of books they could borrorw, but never an outright ban. And fines were never allowed to exceed the cost of replacing the book.

    • +Cameron Breeze exactly when my library couldn’t keep up with the demand they purchased more copies from the jobber.

    • @Pat Hacker Nobody says the library is a business. The bookstore sells old books for $1 per bag or something like that. It’s not for profit. It’s to prevent waste while giving the old books an outlet.

    • @Cameron Breeze Your are wrong. It says something about my community where people are educated and love to read. Remember, libraries are about providing citizens FREE and EQUITABLE, but not necessarily INSTANT, access to books/CDs. After all, they are not in the business of competing with Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

    • There is a simpler solution with regards to removing fines. Create a tiered system of book popularity by using an algorithm which factors online book reviews, local user reviews and year to date check out figures. Perhaps those with overdue library materials can simply not check out hot new books for the first 30 days of their life cycle and are barred from checking out books triggered by their algorithm as highly desired.

      As this librarian stated, their goal is to serve the ENTIRE community, so they must take into consideration those who return their materials on time and reward that behavior with additional access. This way they are not banning would be readers from enjoying the other books and materials which may have under appreciated value. They should offer the fines as an alternative to purchase your way out of library jail as it were and if a child cannot pay offer some other form of recompense to instill good moral behavior.

    • I know my librarians. They are simple minded people. If the system is too complex, they usually just forgive the fines. Perhaps that’s what you try to do.

  7. Lenka Kaclova // 6th December 2018 at 4:06 pm // Reply

    Interesting topic

  8. Leonid Denisenko // 6th December 2018 at 4:06 pm // Reply

    So basically do what Netflix did.

  9. Austin Kendall // 6th December 2018 at 4:12 pm // Reply

    So it’s too much to ask for personal responsibility. No consequences for the lack of personal action. It’s ashame what the left advocates for. I checked out my books and I checked them in on time. If I needed them again, I checked them back out because I didn’t want to pay late fees. Your community pays for these books. It’s not too much to ask for all patrons to abide by the rules. This is a joke.

    • @silentstorm Your alternative encourages the irresponsible to hoard different books at different time. It hurts the responsible children more.

    • @silentstorm The Netflix model doesn’t work, because Netflix charges a monthly fee, so customers have the incentive to return CD in order to get more. Your library doesn’t charge a monthly fee. Without fine system, it rewards the irresponsible to hoard and hurt the responsible.

    • +mhtinla Without the monthly fee you still couldn’t get any new books, so you while you hoard books you can’t get any other books. That’s what I meant by hoarding at most a small amount of books. The responsible people would be able to read as many books as they like books and the irresponsible just the ones they borrowed once.

    • @silentstorm No… without monthly, the library will have to pay for all the hoarded books first, before serving the responsible. Without the fine system, the irresponsible can always hoard the newest, most desired books. It enhances the irresponsible’s ability to hurt the responsible.

    • +mhtinla I don’t see how that’s different from the hoarding that you deal with now. In both cases you have people who don’t return books, in one system they have to pay fines, in one they don’t. You said it yourself that books are constantly unavailable at the library. I’m saying that in a new system it wouldn’t get worse and there would be other benefits. I also think someone hoarding new books is unlikely, if someone always wanted to hoard new books they would have to first return the books they already had. New books come out constantly so no irresponsible person using this strategy could hoard a book for a long time if they also wanted to hoard a new book as the model does not allow you to borrow new books when you haven’t returned old ones.

  10. jo ThePharaoh // 6th December 2018 at 4:17 pm // Reply

    Damn it’s Velma from Scooby Doo

  11. Sara Jane Haven // 6th December 2018 at 4:20 pm // Reply

    My local library collects fines as a voluntary donation up to a point and has a generous renewal policy that for me as a slow reader, is encouraging.

  12. Great solutions! I like the creativity as well! Thank you 4 your service

  13. BANDHAN MADHU // 6th December 2018 at 4:23 pm // Reply

    I did not understand the words well nevertheless I like it.
    I want to learn English.

  14. Dumb the reason why they have fees is to get you to return it so other ppl can borrow it

    • silentstorm they don’t need the fees because they’re their funded by the government. your trying to tell me people don’t return them because of the fees. but if I have no incentive to return them without the fees it’s the same thing minus the money.

    • +psp785 Without fines it’s likely that they will still give incentives for returning books, like the ones she mentioned in the video. And the downside of losing the fines is a small decrease in income, which, as you said, is not necessary, but the benefit is that a lot of people who currently avoid the library because of the fines would make use of it.

    • silentstorm nobody avoids the libay because of fees what’s the alternative

    • ​+psp785 Sorry, but did you watch the video? That’s exactly what librarians see happen. She mentioned people who haven’t gone to the libraries for decades out of fear for fees. I also know some people who are very busy and are low on money, so they prefer not to take the risk of getting a fine. Some of those people just read less because of it and others exclusively read what they can find online.

    • silentstorm don’t return it late your just making excuses now. nobody avoids the library because of fees. the alternative is to buy it or rent it. if you have low income your more Likely to want to use the library what are you talking about

  15. The moment of relief when you realize it’s “librarians”, not “libertarians”.

  16. nathaniel byrd // 6th December 2018 at 4:31 pm // Reply

    The first time I had to pay a late fee I was discouraged from renting books again. My mother In-law is banned from her local library.

    • Amen! The poor kids struggle to pay the fees of 50 cents because of being two days late. The rich kids parents come in once in a while to pay their kids 50 dollar fees because they didn’t care to return the books.

    • nathaniel byrd // 6th December 2018 at 4:53 pm // Reply

      +O Sun A Tzi I had rented a book from my local university. My late fee for one week was 10 dollars.

    • Is returning shared material on time that hard?

  17. Amanda Anderson // 6th December 2018 at 4:52 pm // Reply

    Agreed fines and complications keep people from choosing books over media.

  18. Amanda Anderson // 6th December 2018 at 4:57 pm // Reply

    Income level has nothing to do with reading level. The involvement of the parents do. When you engage your children in reading anything even nutrition labels on food is still reading something. Plenty of places give books away for free and garage sales do too.
    I had tons of books as a kid but wasn’t allowed to touch them. So I didn’t really get into reading until I was a teen. We were poor.

    • How does “having books you’re not allowed to touch” work? Was someone hiding his liquor in the shelf.

    • Amanda Anderson // 6th December 2018 at 10:25 pm // Reply

      +MrSamulai No my father did not have hidden liquor. I checked. He was afraid my brother and I would rip the pages and therefore not allowed to touch the books he spent so much money on. We needed to ask and be supervised but when I asked it was a constant No. I finally stopped asking. These things really do happen in modern America. As a teen I discovered the library and changed my destiny. No one had a problem with library books and no one had a problem if I bought the books myself. Just wasn’t allowed to touch my parents books.

  19. Devanshu Ballabh // 6th December 2018 at 5:15 pm // Reply

    We remember them when we want no due certificate to get hall ticket to write final exams

  20. Sascha Thinius // 6th December 2018 at 5:27 pm // Reply

    Hmm, i agree with the no fines policy… a ban to borrow more, after not returning too many items i do agree… but thus beeing lifted after returning… or the chance to make up for lost items, with some work for the libary… like help sort books back, putting protective covers on new books, catalogueing new stuff…. search the shelfes for missplaced books…. read to kids or disabled people… there are chances for even kids to make them feel responsible for beeing careless

    • Why do you type like that…. makes it seem like you’re out of breath… and have to take long pauses… do you just really like the full stop… or is it a platform thing… it’s really exhausting to read… I’ll tell you that much…

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.


Share This