For Release: Immediately
Department of External Affairs
Free Library of Philadelphia
1901 Vine Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103-1189
(215) 567-7710
FAX (215) 567-7850
Contact: Communications and Development
For Release: Immediately
Contact: Communications and Development

Free Library of Philadelphia Goes Fine-Free

Overdue Fines Will No Longer Be Incurred and Existing Fines Have Been Removed

PHILADELPHIA, February 14, 2020—The Free Library is giving a Valentine’s Day gift to the city of Philadelphia! Effective today, the Library has eliminated the practice of charging its customers overdue fines for materials returned after their due dates. The Library has also removed all historic overdue fines from customer records.

“By saying goodbye to fines, we’re welcoming back the nearly 88,000 cardholders who are currently unable to take full advantage of the library due to owing fines,” said Siobhan A. Reardon, President and Director of the Free Library. “We’re also anticipating increases in circulation, an uptick in new library card signups, and more overall visits to libraries throughout the city. It’s going to be a positive change in many ways, and I’m so proud that we’ll be one of the largest library systems in the country to eliminate this penalty.”

The Free Library of Philadelphia Board of Trustees voted in December to eliminate overdue fines, and the vote was followed by a period of training for staff and technical and logistical implementation. The decision was supported by Councilmember Cherelle Parker and Mayor Jim Kenney, and the City of Philadelphia has agreed to waive an annual payment from the Library of $276,000 that was previously deducted from fine revenue.

“I’m thrilled that the Free Library is enacting this progressive policy to ensure no Philadelphians are alienated from accessing vital City services,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “This is one of many ways that our Administration is looking at government services through an equity lens, and part of that work includes reviewing municipal fees and fines.”

“I commend the Free Library of Philadelphia Board of Trustees for making the bold decision to eliminate regressive fines and outstanding debts. This policy change will lead to greater return rates, and more importantly, help more Philadelphians access the wonderful resources the Free Library has to offer,” said 9th District Councilmember and Majority Leader Cherelle Parker, who held a hearing in Council in November exploring the elimination of fines and fees.

The decision was nearly two years in the making, as the Library studied the impact of fines within its system and data from other library systems that have already eliminated fines. The research found that eliminating fines as a barrier to library use would allow thousands more Philadelphians to take advantage of library resources, while having no significant impact on the return rate of checked-out materials.

Customers who do not return materials on or before the scheduled due date will receive multiple reminders that their materials are expected back. After 30 days, the materials will be considered lost. Customers will be required to return, pay for, or replace lost or damaged items before they can check out more physical materials, though they may still check out digital items, visit Free Library locations, participate in Library programming, and enjoy in-person Library services.


Department of External Affairs, Free Library of Philadelphia, 1901 Vine Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103-1189
(215) 567-7710, FAX (215) 567-7850