Resources, Services

FAQ on Going Fine-Free

Effective February 1, 2020: no fines on overdue items!

  • Why is NPL eliminating fines?

We join many libraries and librarians across the country in our belief that fines are a barrier to access. At NPL, we believe fines undermine our mission statement to create a space for education, imagination, and engagement equally for all.

In many cases, patrons who experience shame from fines or are financially unable to pay their fines stop using the library entirely. We want to be here for all our patrons.

  • Are there certain items that will still be subject to fines?

No. Everything we lend, including interlibrary loan material, will no longer accrue fines.

  • Will I have to wait longer for holds now?

We have learned that libraries in and out of Vermont that eliminate fines see no difference in the length of their hold queues.

  • Do items circulate less when a library goes fine-free?

Nope! Fine-free Libraries report that circulation statistics remain unchanged. In some cases, libraries report seeing an increase in circulation. We will be tracking this information in the coming months and look forward to sharing what we learn with you.

  • How much revenue is NPL losing by giving up overdue fines? 

Overdue fines bring in half of one percent of the library’s operating budget. The library’s commitment to services and programming are not connected to this revenue stream.

  • Are there any costs associated with collecting late fines? 

Yes! Staff and patron time, and patron experience and perception of NPL are all costs.

  • Does the elimination of fines eliminate patron responsibility in borrowing?   

No. NPL materials are provided to our community as a loan. Patrons are still responsible for the return of those loaned items. NPL lends material on the condition that it will be returned in good condition and on time.

We have retained fees for lost or damaged books. The motivation for returning items is continued borrowing privileges. By eliminating fines and not fees, we believe we have eliminated a punishment after the fact that keeps some patrons from ever returning an item.

  • Do late fines encourage people to be more responsible? 

This is difficult to establish by any measurable metric. NPL understands that responsibility exists as an inherent part of borrowing from the library with or without the existence of late fines. We also know that pursuing the value of responsibility through the use of late fines negatively impacts our ability to promote our other values, like access. Late fines block access and not always equitably.

  • I see paying overdue fines as my contribution to the Library. Now what?

You can still contribute! The Library happily accepts donations at all times. A public library is as great as the people who support it.