California public library drops late fees

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This is a great experiment to run. If it fails terribly, they can always bring fines back.

I wish more institutions would try new paths.


Our local library, for a fairly small city, doesn’t do fines either. If materials are more than a month (or so, don’t remember exactly) late, you don’t get to borrow anything else until their return or you pay a replacement fee. Re: replacement, I get the feeling this is negotiable. Especially for kids books or exigent circumstances.
No fees has been great for us. We have a toddler who loves to borrow books but we don’t always have the time to return them before the due date. Between online renewal and no fines, it makes borrowing books for her very easy.


Our county library system recently did away with late fees for kids’ books, which is great since they so often end up “lost” or kept for longer than intended by a slow reader.

After a point they will assume you’re never bringing it back and assess you the replacement value of the book, and send you a polite email nastygram to let you know. This is usually when I have to ask “Hey, where’s that book you checked out?”


The library system where my family lives in Ohio did away with late fees about five years ago, and it’s been working great. Like @kii, you get a month to keep a book. You get a reminder to return it. After that, your borrowing privileges are revoked until you either bring it back or pay the cost for a replacement. (this also works for their borrowing library of toys, board games, and tools, which is a wonderful resource)


California public library drops late fees

Then I’m free to go?


I just had a Brooklyn Public Library late fee bill go to collections, which automatically added $10 on top of a hefty fee. We usually have our library cards maxed out with children’s books, and so when one is late they all are and it adds up fast when you’re confused and sleep deprived. I honestly thought I was all paid up, and had renewed the books to avoid further fees. Would have liked to avoid that…


What the hell? This is an outrage. Always new fees, more for people to pay.

Wait…you mean they took the fees away? I thought they just dropped their brand new schedule of fees, what gives?

Oh…dropped as in “got rid of”

I had JUST given in, and started seeing all instances of “drops” as “releases” or “rolls out” and now the script’s been flipped again.

San Diego recently got rid of fines as well, and for the same reason. Great library system.

Context is everything.
“My favorite band’s new album dropped today” = it has been released
“I’m going to drop some knowledge on you”= Here come some facts
“Texas drops proposed plan when found illegal” = they gave up

English is a funny sort of language.


The Cleveland Public Library announced a similar program in February, but it doesn’t go into effect until July 27. They’ve been phasing out fines for a few decades, starting with seniors and children in the 70s, extending to the disabled in the 90s and now a complete removal. They were inspired by another local library system, Cleveland Heights, who actually saved money by eliminating fines. The fine removal will happen at the same time as the library’s 150th anniversary party. If you find yourself in Cleveland in late July it looks like a good event.
The announcement and state of the library address.

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I hate that everything is all about money - it makes every system regressive. If only there were some way of punishing people based on time instead. That would be much fairer, maybe even progressive. Maybe we should make people be mechanical turks for a certain number of minutes for things like late fees, parking tickets, speeding tickets…

But the context is often unclear. CNN had a headline saying “Mueller drops Russian indictments”…then they dropped that headline pretty quickly.

(I’ve commented about ‘drop’ before, it’s my pet peave and will one day earn me my curmudgeons’ guild membership)

This is nearly standard now. My university library started doing it a year or two ago. (We weren’t the first by any means.) We do still have fines for items that are recalled or in high demand.

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I’m not sure that involuntary servitude wouldn’t be seen by many as having regressive associations.


What is money except a substitute for involuntary servitude, especially for the poor?

The public library in the small town where I went to college used to post your name on a list next to the front door if you were more than a week late. This was much more effective than fines.


Eh - wage slavery isn’t actual slavery.


I bet they don’t wave late DVD fees.

Well if you get a $45 parking ticket in New York, and work a minimum wage job, that’s three hours of “servitude.” If you’re middle class, it’s maybe 15 minutes worth of your time. And if you’re rich, that’s what you earned in barely taxable capital gains while you thought about what you were going to have for breakfast.

And we already have involuntary servitude as part of our justice system. Not that library late fees are part of that. Just trying to think outside the box about how to have a system of penalties that’s a little less financially punitive and a little more equal. And there’s only one thing that we all have the same amount of (roughly speaking) and that’s time.