What fines? Libraries are abolishing fees

Pima Post

Hey, New York City, Tucson is way ahead of you.

Recently, NYC public libraries announced that they have ended late fees and forgiven existing fines to people who had overdue books and other materials.

NYC joins other libraries that are opting to forego fees in the name of equity.

Pima County Public Library decided to do the same thing over a year ago. On July 1, 2020, the county’s libraries became fine-free.

There is a caveat, however.

A Pima County Public librarian explained that if people keep an item for 30 days past the due date, they will be charged the full price for that item. That is a process the library has had in place for many years. The difference now is that the daily fine is eliminated.

Pima Community College’s libraries do not charge late fees in their libraries. From experience, I’ve held onto a Pima library book for a really long time, and just had to update that I was still using the book and return it when I was finished.

“Despite having worked in libraries for more than 30 years, PCC libraries are the first place I’ve worked that does not charge late fees,” said Pima West Campus head librarian Christopher Schipper. “I like this policy very much, because in too many cases, an overdue fine can represent an unhelpful barrier to library use. In this sense alone, I think it’s safe to say that a no-fee policy benefits our students.” 

Librarians say that the elimination of fines advances equity in the community and ensures that economic factors don’t prevent access.

Some people who check out books still haven’t returned them because the late fees are too much money for people to pay.

During the pandemic, NYC public libraries didn’t collect that much money in fines and actually resulted in the libraries losing revenue in 2020. That’s compared to 2019, when the libraries collected $3.2 million in late fees.

This affected a swath of New Yorkers. More than half of the 400,000 NYC library customers’ library cards were put on hold/blocked because they had late fees. With the new policy, they can use their library cards again.

The University of Arizona librarians want their students to use their materials as long as they need to, but they want you to renew the materials. That way they know you’re still using them.

But at the end of the day, UArizona — and all of the other libraries — still want you to return the items you borrowed.

If students don’t return the materials to the UArizona library, they won’t be able to check out any more things.

“A student would only be prevented from checking out additional items, registering for future courses, or obtaining official transcripts by overdue library materials if a replacement charge sent to their bursar account is either not resolved by the return of the billed item or paid in full by the student,” said Kenya Johnson, director of marketing, communications and events for the UArizona Library.