ELLSWORTH — The Ellsworth Public Library will eliminate some fines and rework its space to try and get more young children, especially those from low-income families, involved in the library, Library Director Amy Wiseman said this week.
“A lot of libraries nationwide are starting to reconsider fines,” Wisehart said.
“Revenue we’ve received from fines is not very significant,” she continued, and “it acts as a deterrent for low-income families.”
Beginning Sept. 1, the library will no longer charge fees for overdue children’s and young adult books or DVDs. It will continue to charge for the replacement of lost or damaged materials, and will still collect fines on adult books and DVDs.
“We’re hopeful that eliminating fines will encourage low-income families to make better use of the library,” Wisehart said.
The library has been in the spotlight recently as city councilors and library trustees look for alternative funding sources.
Organized as a city department with its own governing board, the library has a budget of just over $700,000 for this coming year. The city’s share of that is expected to be around 83 percent for fiscal year 2020.
Last year, library fines for children’s materials brought in $3,000, said Wisehart, less than half of 1 percent of the overall library budget. (Fines on overdue adult materials bring in another $4,000.)
Trustees and staff have started a fundraising campaign to offset the expected revenue loss, aiming to raise the money by the end of the year. An anonymous donor has given $300 to kick off the campaign.
“We’re optimistic that we’ll be able to raise that money,” Wisehart said.
In keeping with the goal of getting more children through the doors, Wisehart said the group also will become part of the Family Place Libraries national network.
“It’s sort of a two-part program,” said Wisehart. Using grant funding, the library will modify its physical space to offer an area for families with young children to relax, play, share books and meet other families.
Library staff will also develop a five-week series of fun, play-based activities for toddlers and their parents and caregivers.
“Especially before they learn to read, children learn through play,” Wisehart said.
“We would encourage kids to explore and play and each week we would bring a community resource person who would talk with parents and interact with them.”
Wisehart said the space and workshops will be geared toward parents as well as children.
“It can be really overwhelming to be a parent these days,” she added.
The workshops, according to a press release, “will provide an opportunity for families to spend time together, make friends and talk one-on-one with specialists on various aspects of child development and early literacy.”
Speakers will be drawn from local family-serving agencies and professionals, said Wisehart, “to help parents of young children build foundations for early learning.
Research has proven that the ways adults respond to and interact with children from birth to five years have dramatic effects on the brain, stimulating a child’s social, emotional, and intellectual development. Parents and caregivers are their children’s first teachers and the library will help them in that role.”