Forbes Library is eliminating all late fees for children and young adults beginning July 1, 2019. Lisa Downing, Library Director, says, “Our goal is to emphasize the return of library materials rather than penalizing our youngest patrons. Using the library should not be a source of stress for families. We recognize that fines can serve as a barrier preventing some families, especially those who do not have disposable income to pay fines, from visiting the library.”

In her recent presentation to the Forbes Library Board of Trustees, Sarah Johnson, Head of the Children’s and Young Adult Department, talked about how the library’s existing fines policy hinders its ability to provide programs and services to all community members. “Every blocked account is like a door being shut to a child or teen’s learning. Children and teens are often not in control of whether or not they accrue late fines. They cannot drive themselves to the library, nor do they have the money to pay for fines that they accrue. Perhaps most importantly, when we block a child’s card, we’re withholding library materials at the precise time that they can have the biggest positive impact in their lives.”

This decision is in keeping with Forbes Library’s mission and strategic plan, which encourage and support curiosity, free inquiry, creative and critical thinking skills and a love of reading. Forbes Library is not alone in adapting its policies. The American Library Association issued a resolution at its January 2019 meeting, on “Monetary Library Fines as a Form of Social Inequity,” that “asserts that imposition of monetary library fines creates a barrier to the provision of library and information services; [and] urges libraries to scrutinize their practices of imposing fines on library patrons and actively move towards eliminating them.”

The income from children and young adult fines made up just under 4% of the total book and media budget. Forbes Library will be doing additional fundraising and accepting donations to help make up this lost revenue. Patrons will still be expected to return books by their due dates and will have to pay replacement fees if they are not able to return items.

“The mission of public libraries is to serve their entire communities, regardless of socio-economic standing. Eliminating fines is a gesture that addresses social justice, equity, and inclusivity. Libraries are constantly adapting to the needs of their communities and Forbes Library is excited to be making this change in our 125th year to better serve every member of ours,” says Katy Wight, Forbes Library Trustee.

“It’s still not too late to sign up for the Summer Reading Program, and we hope families that have stayed away because of overdue fines will come in and sign up right away,” says Sarah Johnson.