We believe in providing access to knowledge for all.
Eliminating fines for overdue materials means more people in our community have greater access to the Library’s vital materials, resources, and services. Late fines, no matter how small, are a very real and significant burden for low-income individuals, children, and families. These kinds of financial barriers can discourage many people who rely on the Library, which means they can’t access books required for schoolwork, use public computers or job resources, or simply have a safe, open, welcoming space to visit. Library experts have found that charging overdue fines inhibits access to library materials and services. Studies indicate that even modest penalties deter people from registering for a library card or using the library because of the risk of incurring fines. Rather than motivating borrowers to return items on time, fines act as an inequitable barrier to service, disproportionately impacting minors, students and community members with limited financial resources.
Frequently Asked Questions About Being Fine Free
What does it mean to be fine free?
It means exactly what it says, we are free of fines and we do not impose late charges on our materials. The Glen Ridge Library Board of Trustees and staff want to ensure that everyone has access to the library's resources in as barrier-free ways as possible. Fines also tend to penalize more vulnerable individuals or families who can't afford them. We want ALL people to be able to use our resources without money creating a barrier.
Why have we gone fine free?
It's good for our community! Our community is stronger and healthier when people have access to programs, services, and materials they need to pursue their educational, career, family, and life goals. Libraries are a place open to anyone and everyone. We hope this will encourage prior users to come back to the library and attract new users to experience our offerings.
It’s good for our relationships. When you walk through our doors, we want to do our best to help you, not badger you about a late fee. Going fine free makes a trip to the library more pleasant for both you and our staff.
Libraries that have adopted fine-free policies found that:
Have other libraries eliminated late fines?
Yes! In the U.S., almost 500 libraries have adopted fine free policies, and the number is growing every day. This number includes Montclair, Newark, and Hackensack Libraries that went fine free earlier this year.
Won't late fines keep people from returning items on time?
Late fines are not effective. Studies have shown that small fines have no impact on return rates. Once someone has a late fine, they are less likely to visit the library again. Libraries who have removed late fees report few adverse affects on material return rates. If you want to learn about this research, we've included a resource list on this page. The public library model is based upon a trusting relationship between borrowers and a valued community resource. Library staff trusts that borrowers will return items on time, so others may use them. Other libraries have experienced an increase in return rates after the adoption of fine free policies.
Will there still be due dates?
Yes. The library still has a set time limit for materials to be borrowed and we expect items to be returned on time. Be respectful of your fellow library users who may be waiting for items to be returned. Bring back materials when they are due so that everyone has equal access to our collections.
What happens if I have outstanding fines on my account?
If you have outstanding fines accrued on your Glen Ridge Library Card account, stop in and we will help you clear them. If you have charges from lost or damaged material, please speak with us and we will work with you to find an equitable solution.
What if I borrow items from another BCCLS library?
Fines are set by the lending library. If an item is borrowed from a library that still imposes fines, you will be assessed that late fine. The Glen Ridge Library is not charging late fines on items we own or send to other BCCLS Libraries.
What happens if someone doesn't return their items?
If items are returned after that date, they will be considered late and must be renewed or returned before additional items are checked out, including placing a reservation on Museum Passes. Borrowing privileges at the Glen Ridge Public Library will be suspended until the overdue items are returned. If items are overdue by 90-days, patrons will be charged for the replacement cost of the item plus a $5.00 processing fee. Patrons will be sent overdue reminders asking them to return the items once the item is late and periodically afterwards until the 90-day charge for the item occurs.
Do any items have late fees?
A few. Items like museum passes, Kindles, Go-Pro camera, the telescope, and hotspots will have late fees, but books, movies, CDs and other items are fine free.
How will this affect the library's budget?
While the Library is always carefully watching its bottom line, any loss of overdue fine revenue is tiny compared with the good this new policy will do for the community. Overdue fines account for less than 0.5% of the library's overall income and going fine free will not significantly impact the budget moving forward. In addition, due to the rise in electronic materials (which do not accrue late fines) and other factors, fines are not a sustainable form of revenue for the library. With auto-renew, fines are impacted by items being automatically renewed. Above all, it’s worth it to us to forgo potential funds from fines to remove barriers to Library use.
View the complete Fine Free Policy
Fine Free Resources
Eliminating Fines FAQ – Colorado Virtual Library (2019)
We Wanted Our Patrons Back - Public Libraries Scrap Late Fines to Alleviate Inequity (NPR, November 30, 2019)
More libraries are going fine-free. That’s good for everyone.
(Washington Post editorial, June 17, 2018)
Resolution on Monetary Library Fines as a Form of Social Inequity (American Library Association, 2019)
LONG OVERDUE: Eliminating Fines on Overdue Materials to Improve Access to San Francisco Public Library (2019)
It’s Not Fine to Fine (a website dedicated to removing library fines in Australia) (2019)
Eliminating Library Late Fees and Overdue Fines to Increase Health Equity (The Network for Public Health Law, 2018)
Removing Barriers to Access: Eliminating Fines and Fees on Children’s Materials (Meg J Depriest, prepared for the Colorado State Library, 2016)
Long Overdue: Why public libraries are finally eliminating the late-return fine (2017)
Dawn Wacek | TEDxUWLaCrosse (2018)
TED site | Transcript