Over the past few years, a growing trend in libraries across the country aims to wipe out fines for patrons in an effort to reduce barriers to accessing the library.

Overdue books result in late fees. It's a lesson we all learned early on in childhood (I'm writing this as a millennial) and it's a lesson that, speaking personally, has stuck with me for a long time. But, if you've missed it, libraries have recently been doing away with fines for overdue items, in part, so people don't feel like they can't come back to the library.

Why Do Away with the Fines?

According to a 2020 article from The Atlantic, library fines for overdue items were once seen as potential revenue as well as a way to hold people accountable and, hopefully, encourage them to return items in a timely manner.

However, in 2016, some libraries began questioning whether or not this practice was actually successful. Specifically, questions were raised about how this practice may disproportionally affect low-income library patrons. And, even more specifically, children in low-income families. Having a fine staring you in the face may be a nuisance to some but, for others, it can be overwhelming enough to keep them away from the library, according to a 2016 report from the Colorado State Library.

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Since 2016, libraries across the country have been trying out different ways to either eliminate or reduce the cost of overdue items. That could mean discounts for certain groups like Veterans, doing away with the cost altogether, or just reducing the cost in general. You can see a map of fine-free libraries here.

Is That Happening Locally in SW Michigan?

Yes. In fact, Portage District Library is just the latest to join the fine-free movement.

So far, according to endlibraryfines.info, the following SW Michigan area libraries are fine-free (and confirmed on the library's website):

Now, this fine-free policy at Portage District Library does have some limitations and conditions, if you will. According to a report from mlive.com, while fines are being erased for overdue items, items that are long-overdue, lost, or damaged will still result in fines.

However, all past overdue fines have already been removed and the Portage District Library is increasing limits so patrons can have access to more than one item at a time. The policy will fully go into effect on October 1st of 2022. Read more here.


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