This past week, prompted by continuing research efforts to find ways to respond to budget belt tightening, this series of questions directed to public libraries already charging nonresident fees appeared on CALIX:
1. How much do you charge?
2. Is it a one time or annual fee?
3. When and why did you implement the fee?
4. How many nonresident patrons did you have before the fee was implemented? How many do you have now?
5. Were the patrons receptive to the fee?
6. How much funding does it generate every year?
In addition to these questions, public library managers exploring this method of attempting to close budget gaps need to ask themselves–and others–these equally pertinent questions:
a. Have specific budget lines this fee would address been identified? Collection outlays? Staffing? Public computer reliance and use? Other programmatic areas?
b. What work will have to be achieved to bring the library’s current policies into line with the practice of nonresident fees? Are Board and Administration comfortable with having policy adjusted to fit process, rather than implementing policy through effective procedures?
c. How transparent can on-the-ground implementation be for both staff and users? Who will interpret questions around address locations? How will issues around school district boundaries that differ from resident boundaries be adjudicated?
Since other states, and public library districts, have experience with nonresident fees, looking to some of the guiding principles they have developed and employ can also better inform California public libraries in the early stages of considering such fees. Here are a few, each suggesting more questions you will want to develop and explore as you consider non-resident fees as a local option:
Information about Public Library Non-resident Services (Illinois State Library)
Frequently Asked Questions about Non-resident Fees (Brigham City [UT] Carnegie Library)
Library: How to Get a Card–Non-resident Fee (Glendale, AZ)