The Lapeer District Library board and staff are pleased to announce that Lapeer District Library will no longer charge fines for overdue materials as of January 11. Your local library is going fine free!

The library board started discussing this issue a year or so ago, when a speaker at a trustees’ workshop presented the issue as one that library boards should discuss. The list of fine free libraries has been growing over the past few years, so the Lapeer District Library is not unique. Libraries in Baltimore, Salt Lake City, Nashville, Columbus (OH), Ipswich (MA), Milton (VT) and Floyd Memorial Library (NY) have eliminated fines and report that the waiting period for popular materials has not increased, indicating that materials are returned in no less a timely manner than with fines imposed for a late return. Salt Lake City reports a significant increase in the number of children’s library cards. Close by, Caro Area District Library went fine free within the past year or so. The policy is popular with staff and patrons.

The reasoning behind going fine free is simple: equity and access. One person’s five dollar fine may not be a big deal; for someone else, it could be what’s left for food or gas for the week. With current library policy, that five dollar fine limits people to online access only, or using materials within the library. No check outs are allowed, which means that the person’s access to library materials is limited. This new policy will eliminate this inequity.

The elimination of fines does not impact the library budget in any significant way. Currently, the amount of money collected from fines is equal to 0.3% of the annual library budget. Fines have never been considered as a source of revenue, and library staff are sincere when they say that they just want the materials returned. We anticipate that more materials will be shelved when the threat of financial penalty is removed.

Eliminating fines on LDL materials does not mean that responsibility for the library’s “stuff” has been eliminated as well. If a patron has overdue items, that person will not be allowed to check out more materials until the overdue items are returned or renewed. If materials are not returned within a certain time frame, or are returned in damaged condition, replacement costs will be assessed and the patron cannot check out materials until the bill is paid. 

LDL is also working to help those with outstanding fines return to the library to see everything that is now offered. Embarrassment at owing fines to the library has kept people away, so that they are unaware of what the library now offers: downloadable e-books, audiobooks, movies, music, and magazines; programs and classes for people of all ages; wireless printing; payments for copies, faxes and lost materials with debit or credit cards, from home as well; free notary services; free one-on-one computer instruction; book clubs and much much more. LDL staff will be waiving those old, unpaid fines for all patrons, beginning on January 11.

LDL’s goal is to make the library accessible to everyone, without economic barriers. Allowing people to use the library by taking away the past obligation -fines only- meets that goal.

Libraries are for everyone. All are welcome. 

—Melissa Malcolm