published Sunday, December 30th, 2012

Georgia library to raise late fees in new year

Georgia public library users who are late returning e-books, audiobooks or some other materials will face higher overdue fines starting Tuesday.

The fee increases will affect people in the Cherokee Regional Library, which includes the Chickamauga, Dade, LaFayette-Walker and Rossville branches.

"We are part of the statewide circulation system, which is really a unique thing for this part of the country, but what comes with that are statewide policies," said Cherokee Regional Library Director Lecia Eubanks.

She called the fee increases "a necessary change."

"It costs a lot more to operate a library than it used to," Eubanks said.

While most library services are free, fines paid by people who keep books, CDs or other items for too long help pay for new materials and library operations, she said.

Georgia's Public Information Network for Electronic Services -- PINES -- includes 285 public libraries and affiliated service outlets in 143 counties, according to a news release. The system's shared catalog has more than 10 million items, and users may borrow from any member library.

Late fees for audiobooks, e-books, CDs, DVDs and event passes are all going up to between 20 cents and 50 cents per day. Late fees for print books, which rose to 20 cents per day July 1, will stay the same.

"The fee increases of the past six months are the first increases since PINES was introduced in 1999," program director Elizabeth McKinney said in the news release.

Fines for materials checked out before Jan. 1 will be collected at the old rate. Fines for renewals placed on Jan. 1 or later will accrue at the new rate.

Eubanks said users can pay overdue fines in cash or with a debit or credit card, though electronic transactions will carry a small convenience fee.

She said the library also encourages users to "round up" fines to the nearest dollar as a donation.

"We really don't mind it when people are overdue with their materials -- those fees go back into the budget to help operate the library," Eubanks said.

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