Many people have had a negative experience with library fines. Some libraries refer to late fees as “extended use fees,” reminding us of the communal resources libraries provide. Materials are free–up to a point– but it you keep things too long, you’re preventing someone else from having access to those materials, and that comes at a price.
Now there are ways to minimize your chances of accumulating fines. It’s even possible to avoid them altogether!
At the library, technology is your friend. You can take advantage of digital resources and advances in communication to keep your account in good standing. There are several approaches to avoiding fines:
- Change your notification preferences to “EMAIL” instead of “PHONE.”
Whenever you borrow from the Greenburgh Library, you’ll get a reminder that you have items coming due–BEFORE they’re due. This warning gives you a chance to renew or return your materials before they’re overdue. Email notifications contain more complete information that automated phone calls or text notifications.
- Stick to the digital collections.
Your library card gives you access to many resources. In some cases, you simply log in with your library card number and PIN (usually the last four digits of your phone number.) In other cases, you’ll need to set up an account.
- Borrow ebooks and audiobooks from Overdrive or Cloud Library. At the end of your two-week loan period, the item disappears off your device, back into cyberspace. If you download ebooks from TotalBoox, they don’t need to be returned. You can find even more audiobooks at OneClick Digital
- Stream music from Freegal, or download up to 5 songs each week. Those downloads are permanent–you get to keep them.
- Read magazines on Flipster, or plan ahead and download issues to your iPad, tablet or other device. Again, these downloads are removed automatically at the end of the loan period.
- Watch a wide variety of independent films on InstantFlix. All you need is a library card and an internet connection.
- There are many children’s books available on TumbleBooks. There are chapter books, interactive picture books, and games and puzzles, too.
- Use Library Elf.
This third-party service will access your library account and send you a text or email reminder. Library Elf is especially helpful for families, because you when you register for an account, you can add multiple library cards (like both parents and all the children) to the same account. It puts all your information in one place, including available holds, your position in the holds queue, what’s overdue, due within the next three days, and not due yet. There are also links to the online catalog, allowing you to click through the email and renew your items.
Here’s a sample of an email from Library Elf.
First there’s a calendar of relevant dates:
Then you’ll see what holds are waiting for you to pick them up:
Next, there’s a list of items you have checked out. This list is sorted by due date. Overdue items are listed first, then items that are due soon. Last comes the list of items that are not due yet.
The next piece of information is about holds that are not available yet. This list includes your approximate place in the queue.
Last comes a grid including all the users linked to your account, and the number of items each person has in each category. You’ll notice that throughout the email there are active links to the Westchester Library System site, making it easy to manage your account. In Elf, you can customize your preferences, choosing how often you want notifications.
If you choose to get text reminders instead, you’ll get a simple notification that you have items due or holds available. These messages arrive mid-morning.
So if you’ve been afraid to use the library because you have had an enormous fine in the past, now is a great time to give it another try!