Going fine free

Wacek presents her talk.Dawn Wacek, gave a TEDxUWLa Crosse presentation in February that is now available to watch.

Librarian’s advocacy work, including TEDxUWLa Crosse talk, inspires no fines policy at La Crosse libraries

The signature on Dawn Wacek’s email is followed by a quote, “To be a librarian is not to be neutral, or passive, or waiting for a question. It is to be a radical positive change agent within your community.” – R. David Lankes

Wacek, a youth services manager at the La Crosse Public Library, is living up to that definition. Since starting at the public library more than two years ago, she has been advocating to eliminate fines at the library. Her efforts culminated with a TEDxUW-La Crosse talk on the topic in February.

View Dawn Wacek’s TEDxUWLaCrosse talk.

Many are familiar with TED Talks, an award-winning video site that is a branch of the TED non-profit organization. The organization is devoted to “ideas worth spreading,” and, in that spirt, it created TEDx, a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. In 2013, UWL started organizing independently-coordinated TEDx events featuring local speakers on a range of topics. During the Feb. 8 event, TED Talks videos and live speakers combined to spark deep discussion and connection around ideas related to “Chain Reaction.”

While Wacek advocated for change to the fine policy to boost literacy for all kids, she says the library management and board were listening and interested in learning more. Wacek says some board members were present at the TEDx talk and showed excitement about the idea.

“My talk apparently solidified their belief that this was the right direction to go,” she notes.

With support from the library director and interest and enthusiasm from the board, a policy to go fine free was unanimously approved this spring. The new policy will eliminate overdue fines for most of the materials checked out from the La Crosse Public Library’s three locations. The policy starts in early July.

The video has also been shared with stakeholders and leaders in two Wisconsin Library Systems. “I am hopeful the message is helpful to those libraries on the fence,” says Wacek.