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To Charge or Not to Charge? A Tutoring Story

by on March 7, 2016

The Library Board of the Park Ridge Public Library, in a suburb of Chicago, has enacted a new policy: a $10 per hour fee for using the library space to tutor children.[1] This applies to for-profit as well as not-for-profit tutors.[2] The policy was enacted February 1, 2016, but the hourly fees were not applied until March 1 so that patrons had time to adjust to the new rule. The overall community response so far appears to be negative, as parents worry about where their children can now go to be tutored. A local pastry shop and eye care clinic are offering up space in their facilities to be used for tutoring purposes at no cost and no pressure to purchase their items.

It appears that this came to fruition when there was a complaint from an owner of a nearby tutoring company at a Board meeting. The owner had issue with a rival tutoring company using the Park Ridge Public Library as the meetup for its tutors and their tutees. He threatened to end his lease and send his own tutors to the library to save money on rent.[3] The Board then considered this issue for over six months and looked into other Illinois libraries and what their policies are in regards to tutors. (Read more about this case using the Resources below.) Interestingly, there are other Illinois libraries that do have policies that prohibit tutoring. For example, the Winnetka-Northfield Public Library stipulates on its patron behavior page that conducting for-profit business involving two or more people is prohibited, but the Park Ridge Public Library does not have a distinction between for-profit or not. This means that high school students that tutor peers or school teachers that tutor in their free time are also required to pay $10 for every hour they spend assisting a student.

This is not the first fee requirement from PRPL, as they charge reciprocal borrowers to use their computers as well as for attending their programs. And the idea of charging patrons at a public library for services certainly isn’t new, as most of us charge patrons for printing, overdue items, and using materials in Maker Spaces. It makes sense to do this particularly when budgets are lean; but what about the idea that the public library is meant for the public? As the newest ALA public awareness campaign states, libraries transform and we as a profession are trying to make libraries more accessible and even more a function of the community. We want to build public awareness about all the great things that the library has to offer and to get more people in the door. With business centers cropping up in other libraries like the Skokie Public Library that encourage people to come in for help to start, manage, or grow a business, the idea of restricting someone’s livelihood seems to also decrease public trust.

And beyond that, how will a rule like this be enforced? The task of policing what people are doing will fall directly onto the librarians at PRPL. And according to the PRPL policy, they will only accept cash or check because the reference desk does not have a credit card reader. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Add your thoughts in the comments.


References:

[1] Jennifer Johnson. “Businesses offer space, money to Park Ridge tutors after library announces fees,” Chicago Tribune, January 26, 2016.

[2]Use of Library Facilities: Business Organizations in the Library,” Park Ridge Public Library, January 19, 2016.

[3] Anne Lunde. “$10-An-Hour Library Fee…How Park Ridge Got Here,” Journal Online, January 25, 2016.


Resources:

Park Ridge Public Library Adopts New Policy for Conducting Business On its Premises 1/19/2016

Patrons Conducting Business in the Library – FAQs

Tutors’ free use of Park Ridge library up for debate

Park Ridge City officials speak out on library fee controversy

Unenforceable Fees

A Valedictory Address Worth Watching


Edited 3/10/16

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