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Denver Public Library nixes overdue fines to increase visits

Posted at 1:47 PM, Dec 05, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-05 15:47:04-05

DENVER — Library fines, no more.

The Denver Public Library announced Wednesday that on Jan. 1 it will eliminate all fines for overdue materials.

Why? To welcome more people, particularly vulnerable customers, to experience the library.  

“We know that sometimes life gets in the way of returning materials,” said City Librarian Michelle Jeske. “And we don’t want people to stop coming to the library because they’re embarrassed or unable to pay. We want people using our resources and we want items back so that others may borrow them, too.”

She said these fines often penalize the people who can least afford them. The library wants to reverse this trend, she said.  

Libraries around the country have been assessing their fines over the past few years, but in some places, such as Salt Lake City and Columbus, libraries completely eliminated overdue fines. And both of those libraries have reported increased visitors and circulation as a result.

“Public libraries are all about access and going fine-free is one more way we can increase access to our collections and services,” Jeske said. “Access has a dividend for Denver — we all benefit from a curious and engaged community. Increasing library use and increasing material circulation is a win-win for all.”

This isn’t to say not returning materials comes without consequences. The library has plans on how to ensure they get everything returned, Jeske said. Customers will not be allowed to checkout other items if one or more items reaches 14 days overdue. Once that item is returned, the borrowing privileges are restored.

This isn’t the first time the Denver Public Library stopped charging fines. It has never charged late fees for seniors. It stopped collecting fines for kids’ materials in 2008 and in 2014, it did the same for young adult materials.

The funds from overdue fines currently go to the city of Denver as part of the general fund. In 2017, the revenue from these fines accounted for $110,339 citywide, which is less than 1 percent of all fines collected by the city.

In addition, in January, the library will forgive $474,000 in overdue fines from almost 85,000 customers.