The New Orleans Public Library will eliminate Library late fines for youth materials beginning Sunday, September 1, 2019. This board-approved policy change will remove economic barriers that impede access to the Library’s youth materials.
With 44% of New Orleans third-graders being unable to read at a 3rd-grade level and 40% of New Orleans high school students being held back at least one grade, the Library wants to do all that it can to ensure that youth materials are always accessible to everyone.
The policy change is an outcome of the Library’s 2017–2019 Strategic Plan goals of strengthening communities and supporting the literacy needs of school-aged youth and falls within the Library’s commitment to equity and its core values of Access, Customer Service, Respect & Compassion, and Innovation.
How Will Eliminating Late Fines for Youth Materials Work?
• Youth materials checked out beginning Sunday, September 1, won’t accumulate daily fines.
• Library users who check out youth materials still need to return the materials and will still receive reminders when a due date approaches and when it has passed.
• Materials that are not returned after 90 days will still be charged to the Library user’s account as a lost item and will incur fees.
Small Amounts with Big Impacts
• Library fines for books, CDS, and DVDs are $.20 per day. That relatively small number can quickly add up over time and often results in not only lost Library materials but also, more importantly, lost Library users. This especially impacts children and teen Library users who cannot always control when they can get to a Library to return materials.
• In 2018, there were 8,082 Library accounts with youth material late fines which totaled $44,159, an amount that is less than one-quarter of one percent of the 2018 operating budget. Of the 8,082 people with youth material late fines, those with more than $20 in fines were blocked and were unable to fully utilize Library services.
Eliminating Fines, Not Responsibility
• The elimination of Library fines for youth materials does not remove all responsibility from the Library user. Materials that are damaged or are not returned within 90 days will be charged the amount of the item(s) plus a $5.00 processing fee.
• Children and teen cardholders who have incurred late fines prior to September 1 will have the opportunity to remove fines by working them off through completing and submitting book reviews or by paying the fines over time.
Library Fines Cause More Problems Than They Solve
• Studies have shown that library fines do not have an impact on return rates and often discourage people from using the Library, especially those who could most benefit from library services.
• The investment of staff time associated with Library fines surpasses fine-generated revenue.
• The Library is primarily funded by dedicated tax millage with fines contributing less than 1% of the annual operating budget. Fines are not a dependable or sustainable form of revenue for the Library.