Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze Cumberland Lincoln 08-08-2019

The Valley Breeze Newspapers serving the Northern Rhode Island towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, North Providence, Scituate, Foster, and Glocester

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2 THE VALLEY AUGUST 8-14, 2019 | VALLEY BREEZE | CUMBERLAND LINCOLN EDITION Overdue and underfunded State's new automatic renewal system a win for some libraries, but others forced to pay up It's a familiar situation for most library patrons: You walk up to the counter with a book or DVD in hand only to find out you owe money on past overdue materials. The amount is usually small, typically only a few dollars. Thanks to a new automatic renewal system that went into effect last December, that situation is becoming less and less frequent at libraries across the state. Overdue books and other materials eligible for renewal now automatically renew as they approach their due date, bringing relief to patrons whose forgetfulness previously resulted in fines. The new system has streamlined the renewal process and led to better customer service, but it's also caused a steep drop in revenue collections for libraries that previously charged fines for all overdue materials. For most libraries, it's a small price to pay for the convenience, but some, most of them located within the state's urban core, are raising concerns as the new policy slashes funds they once depended on to buy new books and other materials. Susan Reed is the director of the Pawtucket Public Library, where the amount collected in fines has been cut nearly in half from about $45,000 in the 2017-2018 fiscal year to $23,000 in 2018-2019. It's a significant decline in a By LAUREN CLEM Valley Breeze Staff Writer lauren@valleybreeze.com VERA DEMARCO, of Cumberland, browses the racks at the North Smithfield Public Library on Monday afternoon. She said she knew about the auto-renewal program and uses it and other library programs often. She said that the library probably loses money because of auto-renewal, but she still insists on voluntarily paying fines and considers it her donation to the library. BREEZE PHOTOS BY ROBERT EMERSON community where the annual city bud- get only covers a portion of the cost of new materials, with the library forced to make up the rest with revenue col- lected on overdue books. "A lot of it goes to buying DVDs and print material for children and adults," she said. "We don't have enough from the city, so the money we get from fines is helpful." While the automatic renewals are not the only culprit behind the declin- ing revenue – fines, she said, have been down since the network started sending out reminder notifications sev- eral years ago – it's the latest change in a system that increasingly favors patrons over cash-strapped libraries trying to enforce late fines on materi- als. In North Smithfield, Library Director Sue Dubois said she expects to collect about a third less in fines this year due to the automatic renewal system and other factors, but she's not worried about the impact on the library's materials budget. The budget, she said, comes from a combination of state aid and town funding with fundraising for some specific items conducted during the year. "I was never comfortable with fines to begin with," she said. "A lot of times it's used as incentive to bring things back which definitely helps, but to count on money based on people's behavior is probably not the way to go for budgeting purposes." Dubois serves as treasurer of the board of directors of Ocean State Libraries, the library consortium over- seeing the interlibrary loan system in the state. Last November, consortium members took a vote as to whether or not the network should institute the new automatic renewal system as part of a software update. While a few members, including Pawtucket and Woonsocket, voted against the See LIBRARIES, Page 32 Trusted Service & Repair Since 1953 Paul • Alternators/Starters/Interstate Batteries • Brakes • Oil Change • Exhaust • Struts & Shocks • Tires • A.C. 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Old Orchard Farm And Greenhouse Native Corn & Tomatoes EBT Local Eggs! Valley Breeze offices to close for Victory Day HOLIDAY DEADLINES The Valley Breeze office in Lincoln will be closed on Monday, August 12, 2019 in observance of Victory Day. The news, display and classified advertising deadline will move forward to Friday, August 9 at 3 p.m. Classified Line ads remain Tuesday, Agust 13 at Noon.

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