Overdue fines were waived on patron’s accounts when my library first closed due to the COVID pandemic, so patrons would be able to access the online resources. We are finally back to our regular hours, and our director thought it would be an excellent time to go fine-free permanently. Luckily, the library board agreed. We went fine-free for the same reasons Nashville Public Library and Salt Lake City Library did “to remove a barrier to library borrowing-blocked card privileges due to fines and to provide equitable access to as many patrons as possible” (Dixon, 2017). Many libraries are going fine-free, and they are seeing a massive increase in items getting returned. The Chicago Public Library saw an increase of 240% in book returns in a three-week period (Yu, 2020). We care more about getting books into the hands of children and people than we do about collecting a few cents. The fines at our library never were accounted for in the budget; they have never been part of our revenue. I have always had an issue holding a child accountable for overdue items because it’s not their fault if their parents/caregivers didn’t return the items; then, as adults, they can’t use the library because of their parents. Last week, I just had a young lady tell me she probably couldn’t get a new card because her mom had fines on her account. In the past, we have also done “amnesties in exchange for food bank items,” but it never seems like enough (Sifton, 2009).
We have not publicly announced that we are now a fine-free library; we still tell patrons we haven’t started charging because of the pandemic. There will be people in our community that will not agree with our fine-free decision. Once already since we have opened back up, an ex-board member went to pay her fines, and I explained how we still were not charging fines. She was not too pleased with that and said that people would keep books forever if there were no fines. I tried to explain that it was not the case that it actually encourages patrons to return items, but I know others will say the same thing.
I found the Fine Free Map fascinating I did not realize that many libraries were going fine-free, and we should get put on there once we announce that we are fine-free. Salt Lake City Library also stated doing autorenewals (Dixon, 2017). I am still unsure of how I feel about autorenewals, and I don’t think my library is to that point on implementing that, but maybe in the future.
Dixon, J. A. (2017, July 11). Nashville, Salt Lake City, Columbus eliminate fines. Library Journal. Retrieved from http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2017/07/funding/nashville-salt-lake-city-columbus-eliminate-fines/.
Fine free map. Urban Libraries Council. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.urbanlibraries.org/member-resources/fine-free-map.
Sifton, D. J. (2009). The Last Taboo: Abolishing Library Fines. Partnership: the Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research, 4(1). https://doi.org/10.21083/partnership.v4i1.935
Yu, C. (2020, July 3). Chapel Hill Public Library announces it will no longer charge late fines. The Daily Tar Heel. Retrieved from https://www.dailytarheel.com/article/2020/07/ch-library-fine-0703.