The Monroe County Library System has joined a growing list of forward-thinking libraries which have eliminated overdue fines.
As of January 1, all late fees stopped accruing and existing fines for overdue MCLS materials have been waived. In addition, recent upgrades to the circulation system now give patrons two automatic renewals on eligible items.
Community engagement and national research reveals that overdue fines create a barrier to library use for many people. While any patron may incur late fines, the ability to pay those fines depends greatly on income. People who can pay their fines continue to get library services. In many cases, those who are unable to pay simply stop using the library.
“Eliminating overdue fines is one more way we strive to provide equitable service to all,” said Library Director, Nancy Bellaire. “We have seen the fear of fines prevent some parents from allowing their children to check out books. We do not want overdue fines to keep families from accessing library resources.”
After months of thoughtful study and deliberation, the MCLS Board of Trustees voted to restructure the fine policy. One important point of discussion was ensuring that library materials continue to be returned. Research shows that libraries charging overdue fines have similar return rates as those without fines. Replacement costs are still in effect for lost or damaged items.
Careful consideration was also given to the financial impact of eliminating fines. Annually, revenue from overdue fines has been less than $23,000. This represents less than 0.3% of the MCLS operating budget. “The decrease in revenue will not greatly impact our budget, but the benefit to our patrons are priceless,” said Bellaire.