LANSING — For years, penalties for lost or damaged books have deterred kids from accessing school libraries in the Lansing School District.
For years, administrators have been concerned about the fees, which hinder students from checking out additional books and may prevent them from walking at graduation. They were recently highlighted in a district equity audit, which discovered that library fines disproportionately affect children of color.
They are, however, no longer in use as of last week.
The Board of Education unanimously decided Thursday to cancel over $92,300 in library fees and eliminate future fines, which opponents argue unfairly discourage low-income kids from reading. After studying the diversity audit, the board voted right away.
“My job is to get kids reading, and I’d rather have them reading and returning to continue reading than be concerned about a book,” Joy Currie, Everett High School’s teacher-librarian, said.
According to Sarah Odneal, the district’s diversity, equity, and inclusion director, there are currently 5,437 books missing from Lansing schools.
Last year, when Lansing schools were closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the majority of the fines were accumulated. This includes $1,300 in Everett High School fees totaling $24,000.
Before leaving school to learn remotely, students checked out a lot of books, and many of them were never returned, according to Currie.
When Lansing returned to in-person learning this autumn, she expected to see a lot of missing books. She lowered checkout limits in the early days of the pandemic and advised students to take only what they needed, knowing they’d be stuck at home for the foreseeable future.
Even if there isn’t a pandemic, charging for book rentals makes what should be a fun activity terrifying, according to Currie.
“It becomes frightening,” she explained. “Not just our library, but all libraries.”
The positive reward for returning books is increasingly being considered by libraries, such as offering pupils a piece of candy if they check out a book and don’t have any overdue books. Other librarians have held raffles for pupils who have done the same.
School librarians, rather than being “the terrifying custodian of the books,” should be more compassionate, according to Currie.
In July, the Capital Area District Libraries announced similar changes, opting to eliminate overdue book fees. CADL, on the other hand, still prevents customers from checking out books if they are late by more than 10 days and imposes a replacement price and a $5 fee for books that are overdue by more than 30 days.
Students should not be afraid of the library, according to Currie, because the books they check out are a crucial part of their education.
Without library fees, the district’s budget will be adjusted to compensate for missing books, according to Currie. Officials plan to meet next week after spring break to start drafting new rental policies.
“We have a lot of incredibly excellent teachers throughout the district, and our librarians want to put their work front and center as a means to help our colleagues and families,” Odneal said. “We know from data that certified librarians have a great impact on reading scores in a school, and the more time a kid can spend on text, the more our teachers can leverage the teaching and learning that they work so hard to give.”