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In January 2019, the American Library Association passed a resolution on Monetary Library Fines as a Form of Social Inequity and established that “The American Library Association asserts that imposition of monetary library fines creates a barrier to the provision of library and information services.”
Studies have shown that small fines do not have an impact on return rates. In the Colorado State Library white paper, “Removing Barriers to Access”, it is stated, “… research on the value and impact of library fines and fees does not indicate a clear benefit of administering these policies, and they may be costly to enforce.”
The following 58 Mid-Hudson Library System member libraries are fine free:
The following 4 libraries in our system are partially fine free:
Lists updated as of 9/1/2023
“Across North America, many library systems are going “fine free,” ceasing or limiting their use of overdue materials fines to reduce access barriers. ULC has created an interactive map to help you understand and learn from libraries that have gone fine free.”
“Chicago Public Library became the largest system to eliminate late fees, a move that will increase access for low-income families. Will more libraries follow?”
“The time spent collecting these fees can use up hundreds of dollars in staff time from library budgets. Some libraries have found that the effort expended to enforce fines is not worth the small amount charged per day.”
“From San Diego to Chicago to Boston, public libraries that have analyzed the effects of late fees on their cardholders have found that they disproportionately deter low-income residents and children.”
“Want to eliminate fines at your library but have questions? You’re not alone! Here are some frequently asked questions about eliminating fines and research-based answers.”
“We’ve had 150 years to try to teach customers timeliness or responsibility, and I don’t know that that’s our greatest success story.”
“The four questions explored in this report are:
1) Are daily fines required as an incentive for patrons to return materials?
2) Do fine-free policies lead to increased circulation?
3) How have libraries managed the financial ramifications of removing daily fines?
4) How would fine-free policies be implemented in Sierra?”
“The policy can expand access to library services among groups that might otherwise struggle to return materials on time or keep up with payments, including low-income families, people with disabilities and the elderly.”
“The panel broke down various arguments and conversation points to help librarians justify eliminating fines. They said that it was not the library’s job to teach responsibility to patrons.”
“There is no doubt that overdue fines and replacement fees present a significant barrier to use for those patrons who are most in need of library services, particularly children of low-income families and the elderly.”
“Starting October 1, CPL will eliminate overdue fines on all CPL-owned items currently in circulation, which it said will remove barriers to basic library access, especially for youth and low-income patrons. CPL’s data shows that one in five suspended library cards citywide belong to children under age 14.”
“Sarah Houghton, director of San Rafael (Calif.) Public Library, said fines get in the way of a library’s mission to serve the entire community, regardless of socio-economic standing. Barriers exist for some populations to pay fines, and by enforcing them, libraries are subverting their core values.”
“Though the fees do produce revenue for libraries, they often undermine the purpose of the institution. The library’s executive director tells Piper that most of the system’s fines are owed by patrons in the city’s poorest neighborhoods, which means that library fines disproportionately affect people on the lowest end of the socioeconomic scale.”
“The charges, they say, can serve as a barrier that keeps minors from taking advantage of what the library has to offer as the city experiences a “resurgence” in library interest, Mayor Marty Walsh said.”
“While we want to ensure that library users return their materials, late fines for overdue materials have not proven to be an effective strategy. In fact, library fines deny access to materials and resources for people who owe as little as five dollars,” said the mayor.”
“We are honored to offer our veterans and active duty military personnel who use our City Branch Libraries access to our collections without having to worry about accruing overdue fines. It is our way of thanking them for their service and the sacrifices they have made for our country,” said Dawn Marmor, Executive Director of Onondaga County Public Libraries.”
“Fines from overdue books, movies and more had blocked the accounts of 18,000 people. All it took was a $5 unpaid fine for an account to be blocked, meaning people could no longer check out library material. “There is no evidence that shows overdue fines bring items back,” said Library Director Manya Shorr. “We all believe it because we’ve all been doing it our whole lives, but it just isn’t true.”
“In October, the Chicago Public Library eliminated late fees, citing research that showed that young and low-income patrons were disproportionally affected by the fines. One in five suspended library cards belonged to children aged 14 and younger, the city said in a statement.”
“Overdue book fines cost more to collect and block access to those who need library services most. No one benefits from blocking a child’s library card, says one librarian.”
These are examples of libraries that have gone fine free outside of the Mid-Hudson Library System.