PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — If you’re a Rhode Islander stuck at home waiting out the coronavirus pandemic, one thing you won’t have to worry about is fines for overdue library books.
The due date for all checked-out library items in Rhode Island has been extended to May 1, according to a statement by Ocean State Libraries, which represents the state’s 48 public libraries, and the R.I. Office of Library & Information Services.
Expiring library cards have also been reset to remain active until May 1, and fines will be waived between March 1 and the end of the public health crisis, the statement said. Existing holds will be honored, but no new holds are being accepted currently.
All Rhode Island public libraries are currently closed, and the statewide book delivery system is suspended, through March 22.
The current situation may lead more Rhode Islanders to try Ocean State Libraries eZone, the online portal where patrons can use their library cards to check out electronic books and audiobooks for their smartphones and e-readers. Stephen Spohn, Ocean State Libraries’ executive director, said member libraries will be spending more money to acquire digital material in the coming days.
Library leaders got some good news this week on the ebooks front when one of the nation’s biggest publishers, Macmillan, announced it will end its embargo barring libraries around the country from loaning out new releases as e-books starting Friday. The Rhode Island Library Association had strongly criticized the policy since it went into effect last fall.
“There are times in life when differences should be put aside,” Macmillan CEO John Sargent said in a statement, adding that the company “will be lowering some ebook prices on a short term basis to help expand libraries collections in these difficult times.”
Ted Nesi (firstname.lastname@example.org) is WPRI 12’s politics and business editor and a Target 12 investigative reporter. He is a weekly panelist on Newsmakers and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook