Friday, April 8, 2011

G - Gamify your library fines

Another G - games entry, just because I can!
Swiss army librarian Brian Herzog, has an interesting post about turning the issue of fines in libraries into a game:

"The theory, called gamification, is that people enjoy playing games because of the positive reinforcement from doing something well – thus turning something normally punitive, like a speeding fine, into a game of consequences: play badly and get punished, play well and get rewarded."

We don't fine at my library, and I'm very pleased about that. I'd prefer not to see fines in libraries, maybe a suggested donation instead. I've read about some libraries upon changing their fine policy to a suggested donation policy actually take in more revenue. I think most libraries who fine argue that fines are punitive measures to ensure items are returned on time, but I think a lot of libraries would be sad to see lost revenue if all library patrons returned items on-time. A lot of the time library fines are revenue gathering.

I agree with Brian's sentiments:

"I prefer not charging fines at all, like my library, because I personally don’t think fines should be a revenue stream for libraries. It’s more important to get materials back on time than to profit from irresponsibility."

Gamifying your library fines sounds like an interesting idea, and it's one way for libraries who won't stop fining to continue to do so, but rewarding those who do return their items on time.

Thanks @sallyhereos and @maglib for the tweets about this blog.


  1. Back in the day, I worked at a small town filling station. Sometimes people would pass bad checks. If it became habit, the owner would tape the check to the front window until it was settled. It was, in essence, a wall of shame.

    I suspect most folks didn't care. But some suddenly found it better to pay by cash, or not stop at all.

    Couldn't get away with that today, of course. But to gamify library fines in that fashion--have a roster of late books in the window, with names and categories: A week, a month, over a month, etc., would be interesting.

    Mean-spirited? Absolutely.

    A bad approach overall for the library? Almost certainly.

    Effective? Maaaaaybe...

    g: Gideon in the Graveyard

  2. I'm really good about returning my library items on time, because I don't want to be punished. I use libraries regularly and in a year they maybe make $1.00 off me, probably less. If there was a small donation box, I would have no problem, throwing in some coins or a $1.00 as I checked out. As for the game concept, what would the reward for returning items on time be?

  3. Thank you for stopping by my blog and becoming a follower. Now following yours.

    Also, libraries are important. As a child they were my escape from an emotionally ill mother.

  4. I guess the main point about gamifying the library is to try to reward good behavior, as well as the status-quo in many libraries of fining and punishing bad behavior. It's trying to make a punishment system more of a reward system, which I can't see as a bad thing at all.

    Spenc - with your returning habits, you would be in to win whatever reward there was. Perhaps a DVD voucher, if the library charges for DVDs, or a draw to win an ereader? Or being ambitious, an iPad? I'm sure that would encourage more items to be returned on time. (Just between us, Librarians are notoriously bad for returning things late.)

    Thanks for the follow Shelly.

  5. I do like the idea of positive reinforcement, but I think the libraries make a ton off of late fees. Especially at my university library. College kids are the worst!