By Elizabeth Sias
Overdue fees for libraries in the East Central Regional Library system will soon be doubling as part of the new budget.
The increases were approved during the ECRL board meeting Nov. 14.
The fine rate for overdue library items will be 20 cents per day, accruing until they reach a maximum of $6 per item on all cards.
The change will take effect Jan. 3, with notices of the change published in the December newsletter and posted in the library.
“It is hoped that higher overdue fines will encourage prompt return of library materials,” according to the recommendation from the finance committee. “The current rate is so low that it doesn’t appear to have a motivating effect on prompt returns.”
The fine rate hasn’t been increased since ECRL automated. The maximum rates were raised a number of years ago, but the proposed rate is closer to the amount other libraries in Minnesota charge, the finance committee reported.
Anoka County Library charges 30 cents per day with a $7 maximum for adults, while Dakota County Library charges 30 cents per day with a $15 maximum.
“It’s more in line with, but still below, the rest of the state,” ECRL Director Barbara Misselt said.
The increased fines were passed with three dissenting votes.
The ECRL Board — which encompasses Aitkin, Chisago, Isanti, Kanabec, Mille Lacs and Pine counties — passed the 2012 budget as proposed by the finance committee. Overall, the budget increased 5 percent from 2011, from $2,825,736 to $2,966,118.
The ECRL Board is requesting $386,531 from the Isanti County Board of Commissioners. However, the Isanti County Board sent a letter to the ECRL board of directors saying they will reduce their contribution by 10 percent.
Under the joint powers agreement between the six counties, four of the six counties must approve the ECRL budget to pass.
If the county budget is finalized in its current form, the decrease in funds to ECRL must come from Isanti County library services, ECRL Director Barbara Misselt said, adding that the $39,000 difference would most likely be from Cambridge Public Library personnel.
Representatives were on hand from the Isanti County Friends, a coalition of local Friends of the Library groups from the cities of Braham, Cambridge and Isanti, to present a case for retaining outreach services to Braham and Isanti.
A mobile library van visits Braham one hour twice a month, while Isanti has a library link site located in Isanti City Hall, staffed by a librarian and open Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“Cuts of any kind would really impact services severely disproportionately if it was across the board,” said Dwight Haberman, Isanti County Friends member and president of the Friends of the Isanti Area Library.
This summer, the Isanti site averaged 230 checkouts and 54 patrons per week, Isanti County Friends and Isanti City Council member Sue Larson said.
The ECRL budget will be finalized once four of the six counties give approval.
eBooks now available at ECRL
eBooks, or electronic books, are now available through East Central Regional Library.
The library has a contract with OverDrive.com, a distributor of eBooks and audiobooks for libraries and schools. A link to OverDrive is on the ECRL website, which enables users with a library card to browse and check out eBooks.
Branch librarians were trained on Nook reading devices, but eBooks can also be downloaded and viewed on other devices, including the Amazon Kindle.
“These devices are amazingly easy to use,” ECRL Director Barbara Misselt said.
As with printed books, one eBook per user can be checked out at a time, and there will be a waiting list for books already checked out.
Users can check out an eBook for seven or 14 days, but no late fees are associated with them because the digital books are returned automatically.
Three items can be held at a time, and users can check out three items at a time. Users have 30 minutes to preview the item in their cart and continue browsing before checking out.
If an item is on hold, users will receive a notification e-mail when the eBook is available, and then will have 72 hours to download it.