BEST IDEA (STAFF PICK)
Eliminate library fines
Doing things is hard. If it wasn’t, we would have a homeless shelter and a functional mental-health care system. There would be free parking downtown and a law school on the Y (excuse us, North Mansion) block. The Pillsbury Mill would be no more, an overhauled Robin Roberts Stadium would be home to a AAA baseball team, Benedictine University would re-open and a pollution-free factory would open on the east side with a $25 minimum wage. Forgiving and abolishing old ways is, sometimes, easier than plowing new ground – we have, after all, granted amnesty to draft dodgers and also illegal immigrants from Mexico, at least while Ronald Reagan was president. And so, on the premise that accomplishing something modest is better than doing nothing at all, let’s eliminate library fines. Some of us know the drill from junior high, when we got an extension on the book report and so didn’t return the book on time – always, there is an excuse – and ended up leaving for college with a years-overdue book stashed somewhere in a closet, without having the benefit of library privileges in the meantime. That’s a scenario that helped prompt the American Library Association to pass a resolution this year stating that fines create a barrier to folks getting library services and that libraries should move toward eliminating fines – the poor, proponents say, are especially hard hit by fines because they can’t afford them and poor kids need library services perhaps more than anyone. Public libraries across the nation, including in Chicago, have stopped fining folks and forgiven existing past-due bills. We should do the same here.