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Good news for procrastinators: BPL to end late fines for overdue books

The Boston Public Library announced today it is ending late fines for books not returned by their due dates - and that anybody with existing late fees will have them deleted from their record.

BPL says it can do this thanks to a $125,000 addition to its proposed budget by acting Mayor Kim Janey, as a way of reducing inequities in financially disadvantaged neighborhoods.

The library had been holding off on trying to collect late fees since last spring, when branches were shut due to Covid-19. In a statement, BPL President David Leonard said:

The BPL is proud to join the growing number of public libraries who are abolishing late fines and ensuring maximum accessibility, especially at this time of greatest need among those who rely on our resources most.

With this announcement, patrons can continue to access our collections, as well as our physical and digital resources, without the financial barrier of late fines. We have always believed that as a public library, our services should be ‘Free to All,’ and as the current global health crisis continues and we move into recovery, policy changes such as this are more important than ever. Thank you to Mayor Janey for authorizing the removal of late fines. Patrons who have the means to further support our work will also be invited to make a donation in lieu of fines.

This doesn't mean people sitting on overdue books are completely off the hook, however: They won't be allowed to borrow more books or other library offerings without first returning the late items.

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Comments

I wonder how that is working out at "the growing number of public libraries who are abolishing late fines." Even if people usually do eventually bring stuff back, I would guess that the wait for popular items is longer, as people don't feel the push to return things on time.

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This doesn't mean people sitting on overdue books are completely off the hook, however: They won't be allowed to borrow more books or other library offerings without first returning the late items.

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But if you're not in a hurry to get anything else, there's no reason to return a book(s) until you're damn well ready to. I'm not sure I see the point of a due date as it's just a suggestion at this point.

The whole point of library fines was to get patrons to return items promptly so that others would be able to enjoy them.

Perhaps they should consider a non-financial penalty system in which accumulating too many late points would temporarily restrict a card holder from putting his/her name on a waiting list for popular new books or media.

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Perhaps they should consider a non-financial penalty system in which accumulating too many late points would temporarily restrict a card holder from putting his/her name on a waiting list for popular new books or media.

isn’t that effectively what happens when you aren’t allowed to take out another book?

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You don't get to check out new books, but then maybe you don't care if it's not yet your turn to pick up that new best-seller. And there still needs to be some mechanism to encourage members to return the popular stuff on time. Probably no one cares if you take 3 months to return that book which hasn't been checked out in 20 years. But if there are 100 people on the waitlist for a book, then there should be some consequences for returning that book a month late.

Maybe we're talking about the same thing: If you've got overdue books, you can't join the wait list for library assets.

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Friendly local librarian here ...

To urge patrons to bring back high-circulating materials (best sellers, new books, etc.), patron access can be programmed to shut off if a popular/expensive/high-demand item is not returned within a specific time.

Here is a good article of what's happened in other city library systems when fines were eliminated: https://www.npr.org/2019/11/30/781374759/we-wanted-our-patrons-back-publ...

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thanks, actual librarian who is not just a concern trolling dude on the internet!

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I think they had been quietly phasing out the overdue fee for some time. With the automatic renewal of books, the fines really didn't serve much of a purpose anymore. In fact, the last time I offered to pay small overdue fine a few years ago the librarian wouldn't even take it.

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Some libraries are only dropping fines for kids but still a good step. If they made it income based, there would be those making 6 figures complaining about having to pay (ugh). Some libraries let kids "work" it off by reading more books - great also. No fines, more books. My mom was a librarian - removing barriers to access is the best solution.

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Fines only punish the poor who are also those who need the libraries most. I like that idea of kids working off fines by reading more books.

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removing barriers to access is the best solution

I quite agree. I just fear that people will hang onto things longer, thus creating a barrier for the next person in line for that book.

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We will no longer need a library card because getting a library card is difficult for some people. They tore down and are rebuilding the Adam's street Branch so I guess money isn't a concern for the BPL , not that late book fees amounts to much money but it does teach responsibility.

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Is the purpose of a public library to, as you put it, teach responsibility?

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It's not the job of the BPL to teach responsibility, the late fee does though.

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