Pratt Library to increase, add fines on Jan. 1 Late, damaged, items to cost more

December 20, 1992|By Rafael Alvarez | Rafael Alvarez,Staff Writer

Your irresponsibility will be worth more to the Enoch Pratt Free Library come Jan. 1.

The new year will bring a 50 percent increase in fines for overdue books that adults have borrowed from the Baltimore library system, and the first penalties in 25 years for overdue children's books.

The Pratt will also charge patrons a processing fee plus the full replacement cost for any lost or damaged book or other material. In the past, the Pratt sought only partial reimbursement for lost or damaged books.

The changes were approved by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke as a way of avoiding cuts in service. The library began the fiscal year with an $18.4 million budget that is now $16.7 million, mostly because of cuts in state aid.

The increase will encourage borrowers to be more mindful of books languishing on the back seats of their cars or under the living room sofa, Pratt officials said.

It also expects to realize a significant boost in fine revenues next year. "We've estimated that the [new fines] will generate close to $100,000 annually," said Gordon Krabbe, the Pratt's financial director.

"That kind of money gives us the ability to purchase 2,500 books, or run one of our smaller branches, like Hampden, for a year."

Mr. Krabbe said that of all items the Pratt lends for free -- including videos, framed artwork, compact discs and films -- books borrowed by adults are the primary source of overdue fines.

"Our intent is not to discourage borrowing but make the materials available to more people," he said. "There's an issue between us and the city solicitor on how aggressively the city will pursue significant overdue books. I don't think they're anxious to go after people who have $1,000 worth of overdue library materials, but we want the materials back."

Said James A. Ulmer III, president of the library trustees: "The focus is on bringing the stuff back so it can be recirculated. The key thing is to be able to have people use unreturned books."

Mr. Ulmer, who said the Pratt was in the middle of an inventory of its materials, did not know how many books were missing from the library's collection of 2,217,000 titles.

The new Pratt policy on fines also limits patrons to 20 borrowed materials at a time.

The library is also looking into purchasing a computerized phone system that will call people who have overdue books and remind them to return them.

"We're hopeful of starting that, money permitting," said Mr. Krabbe, who has managed the day-to-day affairs of the Pratt since late October when then-director Anna Curry left her job in a fight with library trustees over her performance.

Mr. Krabbe has been doing the job with Florence Brown, chief of the Pratt's 28 neighborhood branch libraries, and Mary Ann Denham, chief of the state library resource center, also known as Pratt Central, the library's headquarters on Cathedral Street. The Board of Trustees is conducting a search for a new library director.

ENOCH PRATT FREE LIBRARY FINES

These fines apply to all borrowers, including children and senior citizens.

* Books borrowed on adult cards: 20 cents a day and a $6 maximum; up from 13 cents a day and a $5 maximum

* Children's books: 10 cents a day and a $3 maximum -- the first fines assessed by the Pratt for children's materials since March 1968

* Films: $2 a day and a $100 maximum. No change

* Filmstrips, slides, audio cassettes and compact discs: 25 cents a day and a $5 maximum. No change

* Framed pictures: $2 a day and $50 maximum per picture. No change

* Lost/damaged items: Borrowers will be charged a $6 processing fee, plus the full replacement cost for any lost or damaged book or other material. In the past, the Pratt has sought only partial reimbursement for lost or damaged books

* Comparison: Baltimore County charges 20 cents a day in overdue fines for each adult or children's book with a $6 maximum. Anne Arundel County charges 15 cents a day per item with a $6 maximum.

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