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Gamify Your Library Fines

   March 31st, 2011 Brian Herzog

Your Speed Is police radar cameraLast weekend I heard a story on NPR about how Sweden is turning driving the speed limit into a game - complete with cash rewards.

Instead of just using traffic cameras to catch people speeding, they're using them to also catch people obeying the speed limit - and by following the law, those people earn a chance at winning a share of the revenue generated by speeding tickets. By offering a reward, the police are hoping to encourage more people to drive safely.

The theory, called gamification, is that people enjoy playing games because of the positive reinforcement from doing something well - thus turning something normally punitive, like a speeding fine, into a game of consequences: play badly and get punished, play well and get rewarded.

How awesome would it be to do this with library overdue fines?

I prefer not charging fines at all, like my library, because I personally don't think fines should be a revenue stream for libraries. It's more important to get materials back on time than to profit from irresponsibility.

Which is why this sounds like a great idea to me - it focuses on responsible borrowing, and in a fun way.

I haven't worked out all the logistics, but it seems possible to try it for one week a month, one month a year, etc. And ideally, there would be as many "winners" as possible - so instead of one grand prize winner, a whole bunch of names could be drawn who each win $5 or $10 - chances are, many of them will donate it back to the library anyway, but still feel good about winning.

There might be a problem with libraries giving away money (although fines aren't tax money), in which case there could be a different prize - maybe a $5 gift certificate to the book sale. Anything to reward good behavior - and highlight that it is important to get library materials back on time.

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