As of December 1, 2019, no new overdue fines are being charged, and old fines are being waived. The library board adopted a
new circulation policy at their meeting in November. This new policy will potentially impact over 3,000 residents.
Why fine free?Fines create barriers to use. The library’s mission is to provide equal access to information and resources to all members of the community. Those who rely on library services the most, like children and people on a fixed income, are disproportionately punished by fines. Many people who have fines stop using the library.
Fines don’t bring books back. Over the last ten years, the national library community has looked closely at the practice of charging overdue fines. Evidence shows that small daily fines do not motivate people to return items. Patrons who tend to return items on time and those who return items late continue to do so whether or not a library charges a fine.
Fines don’t make the library money. Fines are less than 1% of the library’s annual budget. The amount decreases every year as more of the library’s collection moves from print to digital. The library spends a larger portion of its budget on purchasing and processing material. Often patrons keep items instead of returning them when they have a large fine. It makes good fiscal sense to forgive a $3 fine rather than lose a $25 item.
Fines make people feel bad. Many people are embarrassed when they get a fine and leave the library feeling bad about their experience. If they cannot pay their fine, they don’t come back. Our library staff wants to help patrons use the library, not make them feel uncomfortable, or discourage them from returning.
Everyone is doing it! In January 2019, the American Library Association released a Resolution on Monetary Library Fines as a Form of Social Inequity and urged libraries to eliminate fines. Since then,
many libraries have become fine free, including our neighbors: Van Buren District Library and Kalamazoo Public Library.
If you have questions about your account or the new policy, please call the library at (269) 657-3800.