Monroeville, 11 other Allegheny County libraries waive late fines
Got late fines from the library?
Not anymore — at least for members of the Monroeville Public Library and 11 others in Allegheny County.
As of Sept. 1, those past due library fines have been deleted and the libraries will not continue fining patrons for missed due-back dates.
The hope is that eliminating fines will bring more people through library doors while ensuring that items are returned.
“We think that fines really are a barrier to service, and we’re excited that people will have fewer barriers and hopefully those who have been chased off of libraries in the past will come back and try it again,” said Nicole Henline, Monroeville library director.
Henline said the new model will be tested by 12 libraries through the end of the year. At that point, directors will “look at the numbers” and other libraries who are interested can join in eliminating fines.
Monroeville Public Library operates on a $1.7 million budget. The estimated revenue generated by fines in 2019 was about $18,000, or 1% of the budget, which was similar to 2018’s number, Henline said.
Henline said that revenue would be recouped by additional fundraising efforts and a 9% increase in the state’s library subsidy — the first since 2015 and the first major increase since 2007, Henline said.
And if libraries cannot make up for the loss in revenue, Henline said, they could potentially apply for a grant that would cover it.
Henline is optimistic the change will be permanent.
“We’ve already seen some very positive feedback from users. … We had a book come back from 1987 or 1988,” she said.
The participating libraries will still expect borrowed items to be returned by a specific date. If those items are not returned, the library will work to get them returned. If they are returned within six weeks after the due date, the late fines will be waived.
But if the item is not returned after six weeks of the original due date, the library will send a paper bill for the cost of its replacement.
Fees will still be incurred for use of library equipment, like printers, or if items are returned damaged.
Other libraries participating in the program include:
• Baldwin Borough Public Library
• Braddock Carnegie Library
• C.C. Mellor Memorial Library
• Carnegie Free Library of Swissvale
• Three locations of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
• F.O.R. Sto-Rox Library
• Millvale Community Library
• Penn Hills Library
• Wilkinsburg Public Library
Tina Zins, director for Penn Hills Library, said about 18% of the library’s patrons have fines that prevent them from taking out additional items.
“I think this could regain those patrons, maybe even add new card holders and increase circulation,” Zins said. “There may be people hesitant to check out new materials in fear of accumulating new fees.”
Most libraries prevent patrons from taking out additional items if they have accumulated at least $10 in fines.
“We want to improve our service,” Zins said. “This is a good opportunity to test a different service model and we hope it’s successful.”
Participating libraries join others across the nation in a growing trend toward abolishing late fines altogether. The move aligns with the American Library Association’s resolution passed in January that called monetary library fines “a form of social inequity,” according to EBSCO, a library search engine.
The ALA’s resolution also urged libraries to move toward eliminating fines.
Click here to view a map, published by the Urban Libraries Council, that includes libraries who have gone “fine free.”
Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Dillon at 412-871-2325, [email protected] or via Twitter .