Newton Public Library is now officially fine free! This means that patrons owe fees only if items are damaged or lost. Past overdue fines will also be waived.
“We paused collection of overdue fines in 2019, as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, so many patrons have already noticed the lack of fines when they turned items in a few days late,” said Dr. Cari Cusick, library director. “Now our library’s board of trustees has formally voted to change our policy and keep us fine free, permanently.”
During the past few years, hundreds of libraries across the United States have eliminated overdue fines. In the local area, Wichita Public Library and Hutchinson Public Library both went fine-free in August.
These libraries have found that people still turn in their materials on time, even without fines. And fines create barriers to access that fall disproportionately on children, young adults, and lower-income families.
“We want people to use the library. It’s that simple,” Cusick said. “The vast majority of library users have always returned items on time – not to avoid a fine, but because they believe in the library’s ethos of sharing and want to use these community resources responsibly.”
Overdue fines have never made up a large portion of the library’s budget, so the financial impact of going fine free is expected to be minimal. Of course, donations are always appreciated.
The library will continue to send out reminders about due dates and overdue items. Items that are 30 days overdue will be considered lost, and patrons’ borrowing privileges will be restricted or suspended until they pay item replacement fees. If a patron returns lost items in good condition before the library purchases replacements, fees may be waived.
“If you are someone who has hesitated to use the library because of concern about overdue fees that you – or your kids – might accidentally incur, then this policy change is for you,” Cusick said. “Please come and use the library!”