- Starting July 1, 2017, The City Library no longer charges fines for materials that are returned after their due date.
- Patrons will be charged for the replacement cost of materials not returned four weeks after their due date.
- Libraries across the country that have eliminated overdue fines have reported that patrons still return items on time, that more items are checked out (improving the return on the investment of their purchase), and that interactions between staff and patrons are more positive.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
When does the change take effect? The policy will go into effect on July 1, 2017.
Will my previous fines be forgiven? Come July 1, all overdue fine will be forgiven. Any charges for lost or damaged items, processing fees, and other charges will remain on your account and need to be paid.
Does this change apply to lost or damaged items? No. Items that you lost, returned with damaged or missing parts, or otherwise did not return in the same condition as when they were checked out will be billed accordingly.
Without fines, will library materials be returned in a timely manner? Several other library systems that have eliminated overdue fines have reported that books, movies, and other materials still get returned by their due date. Library cardholders understand that it is their duty to return materials so other people can use them. The Library will issue reminders (through email or text message) when due dates are approaching and when an item is overdue. If an item is four weeks overdue, we will charge the account for the item’s replacement cost plus a processing fee; the Library account will be blocked from checking out more materials until the items are returned or the replacement charges are paid.
Will you remind me when my items need to be returned? Yes. We will send reminders when your due dates are approaching and when an item is overdue. To ensure you receive these notices, please check that your email address is current in your account and that you have opted-in to receiving email notices under the "Contact Information and Preferences" section. You can review and update your email address online or by speaking with a City Library staff member.
Doesn’t the Library need overdue fines in order to buy more books? Purchasing new materials is part of the Library’s budget every year, and it is not tied to overdue fines. For fiscal year 2018, The City Library has budgeted roughly $1,376,000 to purchase new books, movies, magazines, and other physical materials. Any revenue from overdue fines has gone toward the Library’s general fund, not to directly pay for materials.
How will this new policy affect the Library’s budget? The Library expects to forego roughly $75,000 in revenue for fiscal year 2018, or roughly 0.3 percent of the Library’s $22.4 million budget. Studies have shown that, because of costs associated with tracking and collecting the money, overdue fines are generally cost neutral. Additionally, over the last several years, our fine revenue has decreased because of a number of factors—for example, more patrons are checking out digital materials (which don’t accrue overdue fines) than physical materials—and we expect this trend would continue into the future, making the potential revenue generated through overdue fines less and less as time goes on.
Where can I read more about this policy decision? To read the changes made to the Library’s Policy Manual along with information supporting the decision, please read this document.
Starting July 1, 2017 overdue fines at the Salt Lake City Public Library will be filed under the Dewey Decimal class 930 — ancient history.
At their meeting on Monday, May 22, 2017, the Salt Lake City Public Library Board of Directors approved a policy to eliminate overdue fines completely.
“The Library’s central mission is to provide access to information and opportunity for all members of the Salt Lake City community,” said City Library Board President Mimi Charles. “The Library Board is committed to developing policies that make it easy and equitable for everyone to make use of their Library’s resources.” The new policy was adopted with an 8–0 vote.
In his recommendation to the Board, City Library Executive Director Peter Bromberg wrote, “Fines have not been shown to be an effective deterrent to the late return of materials. However, fines have been shown to act as an inequitable barrier to service, disproportionately impacting children and community members with the least financial resources…. Late fines are therefore in opposition to the Library’s core values of equitable service, fostering early literacy, and barrier-free access to information and services. From both a mission and a values standpoint, late fines should be eliminated.”
Prior to the new policy, The City Library charged 20 cents per day for overdue books, 50 cents per day for movies. Each item had a maximum fine of $6 per book and $10 per DVD. Under this fine structure, a parent who checks out a dozen books and two movies would owe $2.90 per day late — in just one week, that adds up to $23.80 in overdue fines. The potential for taking on a large fine for a small infraction can keep community members from taking full advantage of their library’s collection, checking out fewer materials in order to keep their fine risk low. Others choose not to use their library at all.
With the passage of the new policy, The City Library anticipates a reduction of roughly $75,000 in fine revenues in its first year, or 0.3 percent of the Library’s $22.4 million budget.
The City Library joins several library systems from across the country that have eliminated overdue fines, including High Plains Library District in Colorado, Columbus Metropolitan Library in Ohio, San Rafael Public Library in California, ImagineIf Library in Montana, and New London Public Library in Wisconsin. When the San Rafael Public Library experimented with the elimination of fines for children’s materials in 2014–2015, they saw a 39 percent increase in youth card registrations, according to a San Rafael City Council Agenda Report (January 17, 2017). The increase was driven by a 126 percent increase in registrations at their Pickleweed Branch which serves the most economically disadvantaged neighborhood in San Rafael.
“We’re excited that our Library staff will be spending less time negotiating fines and more time connecting Salt Lake City residents with information and experiences to enhance their lives and improve our community,” said Bromberg.