Forgiving fines through reading gets more kids into the library

A librarian’s dream is to have every seat in their library filled with eager young readers. Even with diverse offerings like audiobooks, graphic novels and youth-oriented magazines available, kids are spending more time on their smartphones, tablets and computers at home than with reading materials in the library. One library system has committed to encouraging young patrons to get back into the library in a surprising way. The LA County Library has implemented “The Great Read Away” - getting kids into their libraries by allowing them to read away their overdue book fines.

Library card holders ages 21 and younger can come into an LA County Library branch and knock off $5 from their library fines for every hour they spend reading. Reading includes independent reading of print books or magazines, listening to audiobooks or being read to by an adult. But movies based on books don’t count.

Kids and parents love the program - now instead of staying away from the library because their account is locked, they come in and whittle down their fines when they can. At the outset of the program, research showed that 13 percent of children’s library accounts were locked due to fines of $10 or more. Now the library system has recorded more than 50,000 reading sessions and reinstated more than 13,000 accounts that had been blocked at their more than 80 libraries.

The LA County Library system continues to look for ways to eliminate programs that impede access to their services. In addition to “The Great Read Away,” they’ve had a no-fine month and partnered with local schools by sending library staff to campuses to help them discover the services available and issue student library cards.

What have you done to get more kids into your library?