In this module, the Dixon (2017) and Yu (2020) articles about eliminating library fines stood out to me. Getting rid of fines removes barriers to borrowing library materials and works to “provide equitable access to as many patrons as possible” (Dixon, 2017). Making this shift also aligns with the goal of supporting local communities (Yu, 2020).
Rather than encouraging responsibility, late fines discourage those who can least afford to pay from borrowing a book or even visiting the library. There are so many factors that may lead to being late in returning a book, such as just not being able to fit another trip to the library into one’s schedule, or not having a library branch close enough, making it even more difficult to get there. I stopped borrowing physical books from the library a few years ago because it was such a long trip to get there, and it felt too risky to borrow multiple books at a time. Doing so would make the trip feel more worthwhile, but it would also create the pressure of having to finish them all by a certain date. At the same time, making a trip that required both a bus and a train did not feel worth it if I was only going to borrow one book. The thought of having to pay a late fee if I either forgot to return a book, or if something came up and prevented me from returning it on time gave me so much anxiety that I switched to only borrowing e-books since those are automatically returned on the due date. But everyone doesn’t have reliable internet access or an e-reader, so e-books may not be an option for some community members.
My local public library system eliminated fines in October 2021, and I hope that this change encourages more people in my community to borrow books and just visit the library in general. Eliminating fines increases access to library resources and getting rid of something that served as a barrier rather than a benefit to patrons helps community members feel like the library really is for everyone.
Brooklyn Public Library. (2021, October 5). One fine day: New York City’s three public library systems eliminate late fines. https://www.bklynlibrary.org/media/press/one-fine-day-new-york
Dixon, J. (2017, July 11). Nashville, Salt Lake City, Columbus eliminate fines. Library Journal. https://www.libraryjournal.com/story/nashville-salt-lake-city-columbus-eliminate-fines
Yu, C. (2020, July 3). Chapel Hill public library announces it will no longer charge late fines. The Daily Tar Heel. https://www.dailytarheel.com/article/2020/07/ch-library-fine-0703