A man browses books at Salem Public Library. (Caleb Wolf/Special to Salem Reporter)

Library users who rack up fines from overdue books are in luck. Starting this week, Salem-area libraries will automatically renew checked out materials that can be renewed.

The switch was made because of changes in the library software used by members of the Chemeketa Cooperative Regional Library Service, which include Salem Public Library.

“We brought it up to the libraries and they liked the idea," said Janet Snowhill, the automation system librarian for the Chemeketa Cooperative Regional Library Service.

Snowhill said no one voiced concerns about lost revenue from fines.

“They were more interested in actually trying to help the patrons by both giving them more time and hopefully helping them not have overdue books," she said.

Salem Public Library took in about $155,000 in fines and fees in 2018, the city budget shows. Some of that money came from a $1 fee to check out DVDs, which the library eliminated this year.

The city budgeted $117,000 in fine and fee collection this year. That money goes directly into the city's general fund.

Salem Public Library director Sarah Strahl said she wasn't sure the impact the change would have on revenue. But the library saw increase circulation of DVDs after removing the check-out fee for them, she said.

"My hope is that auto-renewals will be a great service and increases usage of the library by everyone in the community,' she wrote in an email.

Preliminary figures sent to the State Library of Oregon show the library made $5.2 million in total revenue in 2017-18 and spent $4.6 million. Most of that revenue comes from public money, but $245,106 was made from fines, fees, gifts, donations and the like.

Snowhill said the change went into effect Tuesday and applies to any library item that's able to be renewed. Most books can be renewed three times, while other items can only be renewed once. Items on hold won't be renewed.

Patrons who wish to be notified about automatic renewals and new due dates must have signed up for email notifications with their library.

The switch affects every library in the regional system other than Jefferson, which opted out, Snowhill said. Other included libraries are Dallas, Independence, McMinville, Stayton, Woodburn and the Chemeketa Community College library.

Reporter Rachel Alexander: rachel@salemreporter.com or 503-575-1241.

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