Overdue Fines Eliminated

As of today, August 10th, 2018, the West Branch Public Library will no longer have any fines for overdue items.  We do not have a way to eliminate existing fines in bulk, so we’ll be working to individually remove fines from accounts as they are used.  Regardless, outstanding fines will no longer prevent you from using library services like computers, ebooks, or borrowing materials.

Please note that this change is only for overdue fines and not replacement costs for materials which are not returned at all.

Why eliminate fines?

Overdue fines, as a whole, do not work as intended and instead provide a negative interaction between the community and library.

Overdue fines:

  • don’t actually change borrowing habits.  Their intended purpose is to ensure that items are returned on time.  In practice, they do not affect when or if items are returned.
  • are regressive.  That means they provide a higher impact the less money someone has available to spend.  Libraries strive to provide equal access to all residents and fines work against this idea.
  • cost as much to administer as they provide in income to the library.

Through this process, the library assures the community that literacy, equitable access, and customer service are our top priorities.

Conscience Jar

Library staff have regularly heard that some people enjoy paying fines because they know it goes to supporting the library.  We strongly appreciate this sentiment!  But we want to keep it a positive interaction by not forcing members of our community into it. We will have a Conscience Jar on the front desk if you’d like to donate for things that are late.

Returning Items

Why would someone bother to return library items at all, if there are no fines?  Items checked out from the library will still have a due date and the library’s overdue process won’t change.  There just won’t be a fine for things returned a little late.  You’ll still get texts, emails, postcards, and letters if things are late.  If someone still does not return items, the account will be billed for the lost items, and it will go to a collection agency if the bill isn’t paid.  The library is still responsible for maintaining items as public property.

Libraries which have done this already report that the number of items being slightly overdue may increase a little bit, but things which are long overdue or un-returned decrease as there is no penalty.