In January 2019, the American Library Association (ALA) passed a resolution that asserted overdue fines are a barrier to equitable access and encouraged libraries to eliminate them. The ALA is our largest professional organization and we give serious consideration to their resolutions.
The Library Board of Trustees and staff desire to remove this barrier to its resources and to provide more equitable library access to everyone in the community. And in January 2022, we did it!
In going fine-free, we are joining the ranks of many other public libraries across the nation. In the lead up to this decision, we carefully reviewed studies and articles about eliminating fines.
Libraries that have adopted fine-free policies found that:
- Library card registrations increased.
- Borrowing of materials increased.
- More library items were returned.
- Students returned to the library to use homework resources.
- Staff time was redirected from fines handling to patron-focused services.
What Is Fine Free?
Fine free means that there will be no late charges on most materials. The Library wants to ensure that EVERYONE in our town has access to our resources in the most equitable way possible. Fines tend to penalize the most vulnerable individuals or families who can’t afford them.
Why Eliminate Fines?
Research shows that overdue fines are not effective in encouraging the return of library materials. Instead, fines can quickly become a barrier to using the library. Our hope is that by going fine free we will encourage prior users to come back to the library and attract new users to experience everything our library has to offer.
Won’t This Prevent People from Ever Returning Their Items?
Late fines are not effective. Studies show that small fines have no impact on return rates and that those with late fines are less likely to visit the library again. Libraries that have removed late fees report few adverse effects on material return rates. The public library model is based upon a trusting relationship between borrowers and a valued community resource. The Library trusts that borrowers will return items on time, so that others may use them.
Will There Be Due Dates?
Every item checked out will still have a due date. Please remember that someone else may be waiting for an item, so bring it back on time.
What Happens If I Have Overdue Books?
Once your card reaches a total of 2 overdue items, your library borrowing privileges will be suspended. When that happens, you will not be able to check out more items until the overdue items are returned.
What If I Have a Card with Late Fines on It?
All existing overdue fines have been waived. Some patrons may still see charges for lost or damaged items. Please get in touch with us if you have any questions about your account.
What About Hold Times? Will I Have to Wait Forever for My Item?
We regularly run reports to let us know what the most popular titles are so that we can purchase additional copies. Additionally, items with holds may not be renewed.
What Happens If Someone Doesn’t Return Their Items?
If items are not returned by their due date, they will be considered overdue. If items are overdue by 90-days, patrons will be charged for the replacement cost of the item plus a processing fee. Our fine-free policy applies only to overdue items. Fees for damaged or lost items will still be charged to cardholder accounts. Borrowing privileges will be suspended if there are $10 or more of fees on an account.
I Found an Item that I’m being Charged for as “Lost”. Can I Bring It Back?
Yes, please do! There won’t be any overdue fines, but you may still be responsible for a processing fee depending on how long it’s been “lost”.
Have Other Libraries Eliminated Late Fines?
Yes! Visit https://endlibraryfines.info/
How will this affect the library's budget?
While the Library is always carefully watching its bottom line, any loss of overdue fine revenue is tiny compared with the good this new policy will do for the community. Overdue fines account for less than 0.5% of the library's overall income and going fine free will not significantly impact the budget moving forward. In addition, due to the rise in electronic materials (which do not accrue late fines) and other factors, fines are not a sustainable form of revenue for the library. With auto-renew, fines are impacted by items being automatically renewed. Above all, it’s worth it to us to forgo potential funds from fines to remove barriers to Library use.
I’ve always thought of paying my fines as my donation to the library. Can I still donate?
Yes! We appreciate your support! Now and in the future, donations to the Library can be made through the Friends of the Library. Your donation will support critical Library programs and services.