Fine Forgiveness in Libraries

Has your library gone fine-free?

Although it may seem counterproductive, going fine-free is actually a win-win for libraries and patrons.

Though libraries generally operate on a goodwill system that counts on patrons to return books, sometimes this just doesn’t happen. Whether because of forgetfulness, a lack of time, or even not having the means to access the library at the time, many patrons are unable to return their books on time, and typically, this incurs a fine. However, some libraries are taking a new approach to late returns by waiving these fines entirely. Let’s take a look at why libraries are forgiving fines, how this helps libraries, and why more libraries should consider doing so.


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Why Libraries Are Forgiving Fines

So, what do libraries have to gain by forgiving fines? Strangely enough, it actually seems to result in more books being returned overall. Libraries are open to everyone, and of course, low-income households are included. 

Unfortunately, if a low-income individual incurs a fine, they may not have the money to pay for it, so they’ll avoid returning their books to avoid paying the fine. If the library is willing to forgive the fine, however, people in this situation are more likely to return their books and continue using the library.


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Does Fine Forgiveness Help Libraries?

To answer the question of whether or not fine forgiveness helps libraries, let’s take a look at the Houston Public Library, which went fine-free in April of 2023. Reports show that as a result of this, more than 3,000 visitors returned over 21,000 items with an estimated value of a staggering $425,000. In addition, librarians noted an uptick in traffic, as library visitors were finally able to return and check out more books without paying a fine.

From this data, we can assume that by going fine-free, libraries will be able to get more of their books returned and will see more visitors, allowing them to better fulfill their role as centers for community activity and interaction. To answer the original question: Yes, fine forgiveness does help libraries, but it also helps their patrons, often to an incredible extent.

Needless to say, fine forgiveness is worth considering for any librarian, allowing them to retain visitors and make knowledge available and easily accessible for anyone, regardless of their financial situation or social status. As free access to information and knowledge is the purpose at the very heart of a library, more and more librarians are considering making this change, and more and more libraries are being revitalized as a result. If you’d like to learn more about ways that libraries are changing for the better in recent times, visit our blog at EveryLibrary today!



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