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Impoverished Population

posted Jul 20, 2017, 10:50 AM by Tyler Wilmoth   [ updated Jul 20, 2017, 10:51 AM ]
As librarians, it is our job to provide information to everyone. However, to keep our own budgets in line and ensure equal access to materials, most libraries do have fee/lost book policies that are necessary not only to hold patrons accountable for returning items but to replace items when necessary and provide funds to other areas of the library. I too had not really thought about fees deterring patrons from checking things out until I went to Portugal earlier this summer and talked with some public librarians there. They do not charge late fees, they only ask that patrons replace materials they lose and even then they really have no enforcement because they want everyone to feel welcome to use their materials and services. They said that they really do not have very many problems and people are generally cooperative and return materials on time as well as replace lost and damaged items with no fuss. I think that in America, the general public seem to have different attitudes compared to those in Portugal as many of the people there seem to generally care about the well-being of the community whereas I have come in contact with many patrons here at home that only care about themselves and what we can do for them individually and how they can take advantage of us. So I do think we need the accountability of fees here.

Class consciousness is a reality. People do tend to know where they stand in society and often look at other people differently because of it. However, in a library, everyone truly is treated the same. The same policies apply to everyone and the same fees accumulate regardless of social standing. Accountability for using shared community materials is a very good thing to have and should not keep people away from using the library, but should encourage them, because it is an equal playing field.

As mentioned an article about the ALA's Hunger, Homelessness, and Poverty task force, there are questions we should ask ourselves before judging or assuming we know how to "handle" homeless and impoverished patrons. Without identifying the struggles of and empathizing with these individuals, it is really not fair to make assumptions about this population being treated differently than any other group.