By Phoenix Winter
Have you been afraid to go to the library because of unpaid fines?
Have you gone to the library and been told your card can’t work because you have over $10 in fines?
If so, you are not alone. Jean Swanson, organizer of Parents in Poverty, said she didn’t go to the library for 20 years because her kids had unpaid fines. “I was afraid to,” she says. Diane Wood, of the same group, says the library is one of the few places you can take your kids for free.
Some people, says Megan Langley, head librarian of the Carnegie Reading Room, “are too embarrassed to say, you know, I’ve got $20 on my library card.” But that’s exactly what the library says people can do: come on down and talk to a librarian — sometimes the fines can be wiped out.
This is done on a case-by-case basis. “We definitely want people back in the library. We’ll find a solution,” says Aaron Francis, a librarian who is sometimes at Carnegie. The solution might be a repayment plan, with an amount such as $3 a month. Or if a book is missing, it can sometimes be replaced with a book of similar value.
But the important thing is to come in and talk to staff. At the Carnegie branch, you could talk to Langley, the branch head, or James Fralic, the supervisor. You could also keep an eye open for the Vancouver Public Library tent at public events in Oppenheimer Park, such as on Aboriginal Day. The library often has staff there who will take down your name to forgive fines.
If you get a Reading Room card at Carnegie, there are no fines posted on it. And children’s cards carry no late charges either, says Langley. She recommends that if you have children and take items out, take them out on your kids’ cards to avoid fines.
And even if you can’t take books out because of fines, you can always use the library computer with your card. It will still work.