Stow-Munroe Falls Public Library is now Fine Free

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We believe in providing access to knowledge for all. 

Eliminating fines for overdue materials means more people in our community have greater access to our library’s vital materials, resources, and services. Late fines, no matter how small, are a very real and significant burden for some individuals. These kinds of financial barriers can discourage many people who rely on the library, which means they can’t access books required for schoolwork, use public computers or job resources, or simply have a safe, open, welcoming space to visit. Library experts have found that charging overdue fines inhibits access to library materials and services. Studies indicate that even modest penalties deter people from registering for a library card or using the library because of the risk of incurring fines. Rather than motivating borrowers to return items on time, fines act as an inequitable barrier to service, disproportionately impacting minors, students, and community members with limited financial resources.

Frequently Asked Questions about Being Fine Free

What does it mean to be fine free?

It means exactly what it says, we are free of fines and we do not impose late charges on most of our materials. The Stow-Munroe Falls Public Library Board of Trustees and staff want to ensure that everyone has access to the library's resources as barrier-free as possible.  We want ALL people to be able to use our resources without money creating a barrier. 

Why have we gone fine free?

It's good for our community. Our community is stronger and healthier when people have access to programs, services, and materials they need to pursue their educational, career, family, and life goals. Libraries are a place open to anyone and everyone. We hope this will encourage prior users to come back to the library and attract new users to experience our offerings.

It’s good for our relationships. When you walk through our doors, we want to do our best to help you, not badger you about a late fine. Going fine free makes a trip to the library more pleasant for both you and our staff.

Libraries that have adopted fine free policies found that:

  • Library card registrations increased.
  • Borrowing of materials increased.
  • More library items were returned.
  • Students returned to the library to use homework resources.
  • Staff time was redirected from collecting fines to patron-focused services.

Have other libraries eliminated late fines?

Yes! In the U.S., almost 500 libraries have adopted fine free policies, and the number is growing every day. 

Won't eliminating late fines keep people from returning items on time?

Late fines are not effective. Studies have shown that small fines have no impact on return rates. Once someone has a late fine, they are less likely to visit the library again. Libraries that have removed late fines report few adverse effects on material return rates. The public library model is based upon a trusting relationship between borrowers and a valued community resource. Library staff trusts that borrowers will return items on time, so others may use them. Other libraries have experienced an increase in return rates after the adoption of fine free policies.

Will there still be due dates?

Yes. The library still has a set time limit for materials to be borrowed and we expect items to be returned on time. Be respectful of your fellow library users who may be waiting for items to be returned. Bring back materials when they are due so that everyone has equal access to our collections. 

What happens if I have outstanding fines on my account? 

If you have outstanding fines accrued on your Stow-Munroe Falls Public Library card account, stop in and we will help you clear them. If you have charges for lost material, please speak with us and we will work with you.  Fees for damaged material will remain on your account.  

What if I borrow items from another library?

Fines are set by the lending library. If an item is borrowed from a library that still imposes fines, you will be assessed that late fine. The Stow-Munroe Falls Public Library is not charging late fines on items we own or send to other libraries. 

What happens if someone doesn't return their items?

If items are overdue by 30 days, patrons will be charged for the replacement cost of the item. Patrons will be sent overdue reminders asking them to return the items once the item is late and periodically afterward until the 30-day charge for the item occurs. 

Do any items still have late fines? 

Yes.  Items in the Eclectic Collection, such as board games, musical instruments, and other items, will still incur fines of $1.00/day after their due date. 

How will this affect the library's budget?

While the Library is always carefully watching its bottom line, any loss of overdue fine revenue is tiny compared with the good this new policy will do for the community. Overdue fines account for less than 0.5% of the library's overall income and going fine free will not significantly impact the budget moving forward. In addition, due to the rise in electronic materials (which do not accrue late fines) and other factors, fines are not a sustainable form of revenue for the library. With auto-renew, fines are impacted by items being automatically renewed. Above all, it’s worth it to us to forgo potential funds from fines to remove barriers to library use.