Farewell to Fines
In 2019, the American Library Association passed a resolution urging libraries to scrutinize their practices of imposing fines on patrons and actively move toward eliminating them. They asserted that fines create a barrier to the provision of library and information services.
Overdue fines serve as an economic barrier that impedes access to library materials and services, especially for the most vulnerable individuals or families who can’t afford them. The penalty of fines drives away the very people that stand to benefit the most from library resources.
In September, as the Barberton Public Library (BPL) celebrates National Library Card Sign-Up Month, the Library will move toward providing more equitable library access to everyone in our community. In June, The Barberton Public Library Board of Trustees voted unanimously to eliminate fines for overdue materials. In going fine-free, we will be joining the ranks of many other public libraries across the nation. In the lead-up to this decision, the Library 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
Frequently Asked Questions About Fine-Free
What is fine-free?
Fine-free means that there will be no late charges on most materials.* The Barberton Public Library wants to ensure that ALL members of the community have access to our resources in the most equitable way possible.
*Late charges may accrue on non-traditional library items and materials borrowed from other CLEVNET libraries.
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 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. BPL trusts that borrowers will return items on time, so that others may use them.
Will there be due dates?
Yes. Every item checked out will still have a due date. Please remember that someone else may be waiting for an item, so please bring it back on time.
What if I have a card that has fines on it?
All existing overdue fines on BPL materials have been waived. Some patrons may still see charges for lost or damaged items. Contact the Library if you have any questions about your account.
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 after 30-days, patrons will be charged for the replacement cost of the item. 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 $25 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 processing or material recovery fees.
What about the lost revenue that overdue fines generated?
Overdue fines make up less than 1% of the library’s budget, and the revenue is tiny compared with the good this new policy will do for our community.