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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32 NORTH COUNTY AUGUST 8-14, 2019 | VALLEY BREEZE | CUMBERLAND LINCOLN EDITION changes, the vast majority of members voted in favor, prompting a network- wide change that went into effect Dec. 10 of last year. Overall, local library directors said the reaction has been positive as patrons have been able to focus less on fines and more on enjoying the library's services. In Cumberland, where the library requested additional funds from the town this year to make up for a projected $5,000 revenue loss, Library Director Celeste Dyer said they're trying to change the library's image from a penny-pinching, silent one to a place where patrons feel comfortable. "You just don't want to keep hav- ing those same arguments about the quarter or the 10 cents," she said. "We knew it was going to impact our fines, but we thought the goodwill it would generate would be better." The same is true in Greenville, where a $3,500 drop in revenue over the past fiscal year hasn't stopped Library Director Dorothy Swain from seeing the new automatic renewal sys- tem as a win for patrons. "Our mantra here is public servic- es," she said. "If it's going to enhance that, then we're all for it." In some other municipalities, penny- pinching might be the new normal if fine revenue continues to decline in the months ahead. In Pawtucket, Reed said she hasn't made her new materials purchases yet for 2019. But those purchases are coming, and with a smaller pot of revenue to work with, the decisions on what to keep and what to cut are going to be a little bit tougher than they were last year. According to Dubois, fine collec- tions in North Smithfield had already been declining due to the decision of several of the state's larger librar- ies, including the Warwick, Cranston, Providence Public and Providence Community Library systems, to stop collecting fines on some materials. Unlike the automatic renewal system, fine policies differ by community, and the library that owns the material determines the amount collected for a particular book. So a book returned late to a library that charges a late fine might not incur a penalty if it came by way of the interlibrary loan system from a library that does not. "It's always kind of a bone of con- tention at all our meetings," Dubois said about the differing fine policies. According to Warwick Library Director Chris LaRoux, Warwick made the decision to go fine-free on children and teen materials last summer after seeing how the system worked in Cranston. Though Warwick saw a slight drop in fine revenue, they also saw a corresponding rise in circu- lation as users who'd previously been blocked due to unpaid fines were once again able to take out materials. "We looked at our stats, and it was pretty shocking," he said. "There were, I believe, around 7,000 teens and children's cards that were blocked in Warwick. That's rather shocking because our goal, of course, was to instill a love of reading and get kids into reading at a younger age." The revenue decline continued as the automatic renewal system went into effect, but, due to the library's budget arrangement with the city of Warwick, the situation didn't create an immediate budget burden, LaRoux explained. The Warwick Public Library turns fines directly over to the city, so a drop in fine revenue doesn't necessarily mean a drop in funding unless the city decides to implement a corresponding budget cut. For now, LaRoux said, the city hasn't expressed any concern about the revenue decline, though he's not sure how city officials would feel if the library decid- ed to change its fine policies for adult materials as well as children's. Other communities, such as Lincoln, use a similar system for submitting fine revenue to the towns. Lincoln Public Library Director Becky Boragine said the library has seen a decline in fine revenue since last December, but since the amount does not determine their town funding, it hasn't impacted their budget so far. In Woonsocket, however, the Harris Public Library has traditionally incor- porated fine revenue into its budget, relying on fines collected to purchase new materials and pay a part-time security guard. According to Library Director Leslie Page, fine revenue has seen a near-steady decline since 2014, though it's difficult to determine exactly how much of that is due to the latest policy change. "It's not through our fault that we're depending so much on our fines and fees. It's the financial status of our cit- ies and towns," she said. For library patrons, the new auto- matic renewal system is an easily over- looked convenience. Many of those interviewed said they hadn't noticed a change, but Joanne O'Connell, a resident of North Providence, said she was happy when it went into effect last year. O'Connell said she visits the North Providence Public Library at least once a week and also frequents others around the state, usually leaving with a stack of books or DVDs under her arm. "Every now and then, you miss something to bring back, so I think it's very generous of them," she said during a visit to the North Providence Library. In an age when the majority of inter- actions take place online, O'Connell added she thinks it's important for libraries to continue to stay relevant in their users' daily lives. She often uses the state's online library network to check the status of her materials and thinks the automatic renewal feature makes things easier for patrons like her. "I think the libraries have to make sure they stay relevant in the towns now," she said. "This is just one more thing they can do to be more user- friendly." Rhode Island isn't the only state moving toward an automatic renewal system. CW MARS, the library net- work that covers much of central Massachusetts, also instituted auto- matic renewal last month. Though it's too early to tell the effects, library directors of neighboring Massachusetts towns offered different expectations depending on their previous fine poli- cies. In Blackstone, Library Director Lisa Cheever said the town has already done away with library fines, while in Bellingham, Library Director Bernadette Rivard said any potential revenue loss would not affect the materials budget, which is mandated by state law. Instead, the change could affect part-time positions, which draw some funding from fine revenue. LIBRARIES From Page 2 'It's not through our fault that we're depending so much on our fines and fees. It's the financial status of our cities and towns.' LESLIE PAGE Harris Public Library director REDUCED $250,000

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