The Book Bench at The New Yorker has a short piece on The End of Late Fees. They highlight the San Francisco Public Library’s Overdue Library Fines Amnesty program, which includes a call for patrons “to share your funniest and cleverest excuses (true or not) for having overdue materials.” The SFPL also has a set of Celebrity Excuse videos, including one from airline pilot/hero Captain C.B. “Sully” Sullenberger.
I do often wonder whether overdue fines are actually the most efficient way to accomplish the goal of getting patrons to turn items in on time. There is a fair amount of overhead required to set up a system for imposing, collecting, and arbitrating fines. Is there any research to show that it is worth it? Any research into what the optimal fine level is that will get people to turn books in on time? Would something besides fines work?