We're Going Fine-Free!

By Administrator RSS Wed, December 11, 2019

Guess what, Philadelphia? We have great news!

Drumroll, please...

Today, the Free Library of Philadelphia Board of Trustees voted to approve a measure that will eliminate most overdue fines throughout the Free Library system! The effective date is yet to be determined, but we encourage you to check back here on our blog and social media sites for updates!

"We are delighted to be able to join many libraries across the country in removing overdue materials fines as a barrier for customers," said Board of Trustees Chair Pamela Dembe. "We look forward to welcoming back many customers and long-missing materials in the near future. I want to thank Councilmember Cherelle Parker and Mayor Jim Kenney for extending their support for this measure and welcome them as partners as we become one of the largest library systems in the country to eliminate this penalty."

The policy approved by the Board of Trustees states:

“Effective at a date to be determined: The Free Library of Philadelphia does not charge fines for most overdue materials. There are fees for items that are lost or destroyed. The fees are the cost of the item, as listed in the catalog. The Library also accepts new or gently used copies of lost or destroyed material as replacement in lieu of payment. If lost materials are returned or replaced, there is no penalty. The language of this policy supersedes that of existing policies.”

The Free Library of Philadelphia will remain under the current fine policy until training for staff and technical and logistical implementation can be completed.

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This is fantastic news! Thank you for making the library accessible to everyone without having to be burdened by financial worry!!! Please put this into effect soon.
Cat - South Philly
Wednesday, December 11, 2019

So now there will be no deterrent for people who keep books way beyond their due date while others are waiting to read them!
Mary Burns
Thursday, December 12, 2019

Nice that both points of view are reflected in the first two comments. I never thought that the picayune fines were a problem (a "financial worry"), but I completely agree that circulation of popular materials must be as wide as possible. I would guess that FLP will be buying many more copies of best-sellers and other popular books and in spite of that that waits will be longer. Best of luck in this venture!
Steve - Germantown but a Falls patron
Thursday, December 12, 2019

Really? Yes, let's teach children, yet again, that they are not responsible for their actions. Someone is waiting for a book to come back but who knows when that will happen because the person who had it may never return it. Isn't that stealing? No worries, the Library will just buy a replacement.
Sally - Philadephia
Thursday, December 12, 2019

I'm all for this excellent plan for extending library access. I do hope, though, that the library will keep an eye on how the new policy affects wait times on holds for popular books and will come up with a plan to manage wait times if they become excessive. One idea: restricting the ability to place new holds and / or cancellation of existing holds on accounts with books ineligible for renewal out past their due dates, with restrictions lifted on return.
Waiting - West Philly
Thursday, December 12, 2019

Great news? Depends. If you can't find a book because somebody else has no motivation to return it on time, it's lousy news. A "barrier to customers"? How so? The books are always free to check out. Don't want to pay a fine? Then return the book on time.
David - Philadelphia
Thursday, December 12, 2019

I'm always amazed at how people think we need to punish others to get them to uphold their part of a social contract. This is working in other places without the CRISIS of books never being returned. Chill out.
ChrissMari - South Philly
Friday, December 13, 2019

Before criticizing, you need to learn how this process works. 1) if a hold is placed on an item, then that person can no longer renew it and, after whatever this systems billing period is, it will show up on the card as a Billed Item. So no, the chances of people waiting on items that no one is returning will be no higher than it was before. 2) if a person has an item out for years that no one has put a hold on, then chances are it's not an item that needs to be in the collection to begin with and it's not doing any harm or inconveniencing anyone (other than the cost of the book to the library) The point of Fine Free is to eliminate the barrier that's preventing people from using the library. As library workers, it's none of my business how you accrued those fines nor is it my business to ask. We too after see situations where a child had a parent who abused their card, someone had a domestic dispute and no longer has access to the items, a bag was stolen on the bus, a homeless person had their things lost after they were kicked out of a shelter.... the list goes on and on. We are dedicated to serving the public and the free access to information. As I read some of these comments, it makes me wonder if some of these people really understand how their library system works. I doubt we'll see small libraries that aren't part of a county system Go this route, but the city systems have a much easier time doing it. Chicago saw a HUGE return of items when it went fine free. People had avoided coming because they knew how high their fines had gotten and keeping it was better than the embarrassment of facing the music and paying the accumulated fines. Heck, if we're the owning library, I'll gladly wipe the fines out, we just want the item back. And that's a point I think people don't realize, patrons will still get charged replacements fees if they have it out too long after it's been requested by another patron. But it's there to encourage responsibility. It's not our job to teach that and, to be honest, fines aren't keeping items in the libraries.... if you could see the list we print out every month of items that are labeled missing (most DVDs) or that haven't been returned... you'd see that fines are necessarily as effective as you'd think.
Julie - Pittsburgh
Sunday, December 15, 2019

"The point of Fine Free is to eliminate the barrier that's preventing people from using the library" There is no such barrier preventing people from using the library Julie from Pittsburgh. Patrons have access to every library event, service and program regardless of fine status.
Marlyn - Philly
Monday, February 3, 2020