Is there anything more anxiety-inducing for a book lover than having a library fine? Well, library-goers in Boston will soon not have to worry if they are a bit late returning their latest read.
This past week, the Boston Public Library system announced it will be eliminating late fines for all library-goers effective this July. This decision would also remove all fines for those who currently have overdue charges. While late fees are being eliminated, there will still be fees for books that are not returned or lost. This is a major change that will allow the library to serve its community better. When individuals have a late fee, it deters library-goers from visiting their library, especially when they can’t pay the fee. As a result, they don’t access resources that should be accessible to them. Eliminating late fees will mean giving more access to resources to those that need them.
The Boston Public Library system is just the latest library system to eliminate late fees in what has been a growing trend the last couple of years. According to The Atlantic, major library systems in San Diego, Nashville, Salt Lake City, Baltimore, St. Paul, and Columbus, Ohio have eliminated late fees. Created over a century ago, library fines were created to encourage users to return books on time and as a source of revenue. However, recent analysis has shown that library fines disproportionately affect low-income communities. As a result, more and more libraries are looking for different operating models that are more equitable. For example, a growing number of libraries have eliminated fines for specific groups such as for children/children’s books and military veterans or eliminating them altogether.
With the COVID-19 pandemic making it challenging for library-goers to return books, it makes sense that libraries are reassessing late fees and trying to take a different approach.
Of course, late fees have prevailed because of how they contribute to library revenue. So how will libraries manage to stay open without the support of these fees? In reality, many fees go unpaid. According to the Boston Globe, the Boston Public Library collected $176,512 in fines from library cardholders, a fraction of the total overdue fine balance on record. While it is a major source of income, many libraries rely on public support and public funding. Community support for removing late fees will be essential. We, as book lovers, should do everything we can to make libraries and their books and resources more accessible to everyone.
Libraries are such vital resources in communities. The movement toward eliminating late fees is a huge step to making those resources free to everyone that needs them. Check out your local library to see how you can support them!