Rescued birds continue to recover in their home at Wild Wings in Hazel Park. This year has seen a sharp increase in birds brought to the rehabilitation center.

Rescued birds continue to recover in their home at Wild Wings in Hazel Park. This year has seen a sharp increase in birds brought to the rehabilitation center.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Hazel Park library goes ‘fine free,’ waives current fines

Library also adds Hoopla e-service, makerspace with 3D printers

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published August 7, 2020

 Due to COVID-19, the library has removed or rearranged much of its furniture, the computer desks are temporarily gone, and Plexiglas has been installed at the circulation and reference desks.

Due to COVID-19, the library has removed or rearranged much of its furniture, the computer desks are temporarily gone, and Plexiglas has been installed at the circulation and reference desks.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

 One of owner Marg Sapp’s personal pigeons has become a mascot for the operation.

One of owner Marg Sapp’s personal pigeons has become a mascot for the operation.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


HAZEL PARK — Late fees are no longer a thing at the Hazel Park Memorial District Library.

The library, located at 123 E. Nine Mile Road, has waived all outstanding late fees and will no longer fine users when materials are not returned on time.

Officials hope this will bring back people who have stopped using the library, and that they will enjoy new resources such as Hoopla — a new way to check out materials electronically — and the makerspace, where they will find 3D printers and a Cricut Maker for cutting paper and vinyl.

Going fine free
Instead of late fees, patrons will be billed for the replacement cost of an item that is three weeks overdue, and they will be blocked from future checkouts until the overdue materials are returned. However, if the item is returned, the bill will be waived, and checkout access will be restored.

Note that patrons will still be billed for any items that were lost or damaged, and if a patron borrows items from another library in The Library Network that charges fines, they will still be subject to fines from that library.

Corrine Stocker, the library director in Hazel Park, said there is a “fine-free” movement gaining steam across the country, buoyed by evidence that shows it leads to an increase in cardholders and circulation.

“Going fine free allows us to knock down a barrier that prevented us from achieving our goal of equitable access to information, education and literacy,” Stocker said.

The idea is that fines penalize more vulnerable individuals or families who cannot afford them and act as a barrier to participation in the library. In January 2019, the American Library Association passed a resolution that declared fines a “form of social inequity” and called upon libraries across the country to eliminate their fines.

Stocker said this issue is especially relevant in Hazel Park, where around 25% of residents live below the poverty line. She said that punitive fees account for only 1% of the library’s revenue, so the library isn’t losing much by ending the practice.

Under the previous model, users were fined 15 cents per day for overdue books, audiobooks, music CDs and magazines, capped at $3 per item. Overdue DVDs carried a fine of $1 per day, capped at $10 per DVD. While this may not sound like much, these fines can add up quickly for those who are late on multiple items. But under the new system, once someone returns any item, all fees associated with it are waived, regardless of how late the item was returned.

“In the past, there was really no incentive for library users to return seriously overdue materials, since users would be punished with late fees that they could not always afford to pay, and their card would remain blocked from use. For some of our low-income patrons, a fine meant they stopped coming to the library,” Stocker said. “In fact, at some point in 2016, TLN purged all fines that were outstanding for six or more years, as those fines were likely never going to be paid. At that point our number of cardholders plunged by almost 40%. Since the cards were also expired, they were simply purged from the system when the fines were removed. This represents a drop of 40% of our cardholders due largely to overdue fines.

“Going fine free is intended to help families of all socioeconomic backgrounds, as they tend to be the ones that check out 30-50 books and then struggle to get them back on time,” Stocker said. “The fine reset is intended to bring back folks who were staying away due to fines.”

Not only does this make it easier for blocked users to return to the library, but eliminating fines also improves customer service and improves staff morale, she said, by reducing the number of negative interactions where the staff has to be the “bad guy.” Stocker said that it also optimizes staff time and efficiency.

Some other fine-free libraries in the metro Detroit area include the libraries in Allen Park, Belleville, Detroit, Ferndale, Franklin, Garden City, Hartland, Lyon Township, Milford, Pinkney, Redford, Southgate and Taylor.

“This is the community’s library,” Stocker said. “We just want to make it fully accessible to as many members of our community as we possibly can.”

Hoopla, makerspace
Another recent development at the Hazel Park library is the addition of the makerspace and the Hoopla e-service.

Those with a valid Hazel Park library card and access to a web browser, smartphone or tablet can access Hoopla, a web browser add-on available at the library’s website, Hoopla is a commercial-free platform for borrowing e-books, audiobooks, movies, TV shows, documentaries and more. The items borrowed can be read or played within the app.

There are six categories of content spanning a catalog containing thousands of items, and users can check out up to six items per month. Movies and TV show episodes can be borrowed for three days, music albums can be borrowed for a week, and audiobooks, e-books and e-comics can be borrowed for three weeks. When the lending period is over, the item is returned automatically, and since there is an unlimited number of copies for each title, there is no waiting period. Streaming starts immediately, and downloads can be viewed offline.

The library joined Hoopla Aug. 1. This follows its cancellation of OverDrive, which it had used for the past several years.

“A lot of our patrons have asked for Hoopla over the past year. It has many advantages over OverDrive,” Stocker said. “Whereas OverDrive content is limited to e-books and audiobooks, Hoopla has both, and also includes movies, TV shows and music. Hoopla’s catalog is vast, offering over 500,000 items. One of the biggest advantages is that if Hoopla owns content, it is always available immediately to anyone who wants it. With OverDrive, only one copy of a title is typically available, which resulted in patrons having to place a hold and often wait weeks or even months for it to become available.”

Stocker said the library would’ve liked to sign up for both services, but it could only afford one.

“I’m excited to be able to offer Hoopla to our community because it literally offers a world of entertainment to our patrons, all from the comfort of home or anywhere, even when the library is closed,” Stocker said.

As for the makerspace, patrons may find the equipment there helpful for a variety of projects. Among the resources available are two 3D printers and a vinyl cutter.

A 3D printer produces three-dimensional items by layering plastic polymer to create the solid object. One popular resource for creating items is the Smithsonian’s personal library — a collection that includes 3D printer data for ancient objects and famous art pieces. Some people use 3D printers to create gifts for family and friends; others use them to make spare parts for household items, or even quality-of-life items such as phone holders. Computers in the makerspace allow patrons to peruse these and other project resources, and staff is on hand to assist them.

The makerspace also features a Cricut Maker, a device specializing in cutting craft paper and vinyl for arts and crafts. It’s a handy tool for scrapbooking and other projects that incorporate intricate pieces, letters, shapes or pictures. There are a variety of colors of vinyl and card stock available.

With regards to the filament for 3D printers, the library will charge 60 cents to $1 an ounce for completed projects.

“You can make quite a lot with a dollar or two,” said Randy Ernst-Meyer, a librarian at the Hazel Park library. “The only real limit placed on patrons will be time. 3D printers can take quite a lot of time. Patrons will be limited to prints that take four hours or less. After that, the library expects the object printed will not violate the law — printing firearms would be an obvious no-no — or be inherently dangerous, or violate the library’s code of conduct.”

Materials such as cloth and vinyl are available for the Cricut Maker at a small cost. Patrons can use their own materials, so long as they can be safely used. There is also a laser engraver available.

“Our makerspace gives people a place where they can actually practice real-world skills — a place to be creative. Information doesn’t have to be just a mental exercise; it can be a physical one too,” Ernst-Meyer said. “I love that people can walk into our library, and take home something they created, something they needed, something that can make their lives better for very little money. These sort of machines can be expensive. With a library’s makerspace, they can be shared by everyone. How is that not a good thing? To me, it is what libraries are all about.”