The library is now “fine-free”

Why did we do it? Because access to information is a core library value.

  • Eliminating punitive overdue fines removes an access barrier and ensures that everyone can learn, connect, create, and grow — equally.

Effective January 1, 2020: no fines on overdue items.

On Tuesday, December 17, 2019 the Lawrence Public Library Board of Trustees passed a vote to eliminate the practice of charging overdue fines.

  • Existing late fees will be cleared from all library cardholder accounts on January 1, 2020
  • Borrowers will still be charged for lost or damaged items
  • Replacement charges will be dropped for lost items returned in good condition

Borrower information has changed.

  • Please visit our Borrower Information page to see updates to the library's borrowing policies
  • Overdue items will no longer accrue late fees (yellow circles), instead on day 15 the account will be blocked (first red circle)
  • Late fines paid before the change will not be refunded
  • Click on each image below to enlarge for detail

Fine-free FAQs

Do late fines make library items come back on time? No. Libraries that go fine-free see no significant difference in their overdue return rates.
Are holds queues impacted when a library goes fine-free? No. Libraries that eliminate fines see no difference in the length of their hold queues.
Are circulation rates hurt when a library goes fine-free? No. Circulation rates tend to stay the same or increase with the elimination of fines.
How much money does the library make from late fines each year? About $120,000 or 2.6% of the library's revenue has traditionally come from late fines. Subtracting credit card processing and equipment fees the total drops to $111,500 or 2.4%.
Does the American Library Association support late fines? No. The ALA has come out against charging late fines whenever possible.
Does the library's mission statement support late fines? From the library's mission statement: Core services without charge. We provide basic library services free of charge.
Are there any costs associated with collecting late fines? Yes. There are costs with equipment and subscription fees, staff and patron time, and customer experience and perception of the library.
Does the elimination of fines eliminate patron responsibility in borrowing? No. Patrons are still held responsible for the return of borrowed items in good condition.
Do late fines encourage patron responsibility?    It's unclear. Fines don't seem to impact return rates. Fines do allow patrons to pay their way out of any responsibility for late items.
What is more important for a library: encouraging responsibility or ensuring access? Ensuring access is among our core fundamental values.
Are library fines equitable? No. Library fines are a greater burden for patrons living at or below the poverty line.
Do library fines present an equity issue in Lawrence? It appears so. Patrons living in lower income areas or housing have more unpaid fees and a lower borrowing rate.

Read Eliminating Late Fines at LPL: Report to the Lawrence Public Library Board of Trustees, November 2019 in its entirety here.

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