Late fines are being eliminated by the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library on nearly all of its 220,000 circulating materials.
Starting Jan. 1, overdue fines for most items will no longer be charged, and existing fines for Eau Claire library materials will be waived, according to a Library press release.
Late fines will still be charged for certain items, such as kits, equipment, Lucky Day materials, and materials from other libraries. Fees for damaged items will continue to be charged, and customers who do not return items will be charged replacement fees.
“Eliminating fines on the bulk of our materials and waiving old fines will have a significant impact on those unable to check out due to the balance on their account” said Isa Small, the Library’s Programming and Communications Services Manager.
“Unfortunately, many of the folks with blocked accounts are children and those with limited means. Consequently, many of the people who could most benefit from library materials are not able to check out,” she noted.
Library Director Pamela Westby noted that this move is in step with Eau Claire’s city budget process, which recently added a guiding principle to “directly benefit persons with low and moderate income.”
She added that “the library is committed to reducing unnecessary barriers that prevent residents from accessing critical information needed to succeed in today’s world.
“We are grateful for the support of our library Board of Trustees, which has endorsed this opportunity to welcome back thousands of residents to the library by waiving fines on library cardholder accounts.
Westby said that “fines are not a reliable or sustainable income source,” and noted that revenue from fines represents only about 1.2% of the total library budget. Meanwhile, there are approximately 8,000 library cardholders blocked from checking out materials because of accrued fines of $10 or more, she said.
Research shows no difference in the rate of overdue materials between the libraries charging fines and those that don’t, according to the press release.
The “fines-free” movement has been gaining traction in public libraries across the country. L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library belongs to the MORE consortium of 49 libraries, located in the central northwest region of the state. Four other libraries in the consortium have already opted to reduce or eliminate late fines, including Rice Lake and Augusta.