County, city libraries eliminate all fines in joint effort for equity


Theodore, center, learns simple chemistry concepts during the Mad Mixtures event in Oakville last summer. Photo courtesy of the St. Louis County Library.

St. Louis’ two largest library systems are going fine-free starting this month with a “New Year, No Fines” initiative. St. Louis County Library and St. Louis Public Library announced Tuesday they will no longer charge fines on late materials beginning in the new year.

The two libraries jointly held a press conference Tuesday morning about the initiative alongside County Executive Sam Page and St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson.

Page said in a news release, “Our libraries are among our greatest assets in St. Louis County and City. I commend the two districts for coming together and opening the door to learning even wider by eliminating overdue fines.”

Krewson said in the release, “Reading has the unique ability to inform, illuminate and inspire. It’s important that we make our great libraries as accessible as possible to the community. I am grateful to our two incredible library systems for collaborating together to do just that and go fine-free.”

Eliminating fines will allow patrons greater access to all of the resources available at the library including books, DVDs, online classes, e-media and more, the county library said. Cardholders will still be responsible for returning items and paying for any lost or damaged materials.

County library Director Kristen Sorth said, “We are always looking for ways to remove barriers and increase access to library materials and services. Removing overdue fees helps make the library’s resources more accessible and supports literacy efforts for our entire community.”

City library CEO Waller McGuire said, “Public libraries provide vital resources and life enrichment throughout our communities. Individuals, families, businesses, adults, children — the world comes through our doors and networks. Our boards voted to open more doors by eliminating fines. It is a wonderful gift for St. Louis and a great step forward for the region.”

The Board of Trustees for both libraries approved the elimination of fines in December. Revenue attributed to fines has fallen steadily in recent years. The boards decided on the change as a way of reducing barriers and increasing equity for library users.

Patrons at SLCL will still receive reminders to return materials. An email notice is sent two days before items are due, and at that time eligible items will be automatically renewed. Email notices for overdue items will be sent at several intervals prior to an item reaching 45 days overdue, at which time SLCL will bill the patron for the cost of the item. If a patron returns a billed item, no overdue charges will be assessed.   

All SLPL customers will still receive notices when items are due, and again if items are not returned. After 42 days, unreturned items will be considered lost and customers will be responsible for those items.

SLCL and SLPL are joining a number of other library systems across the country in eliminating fines. Chicago Public Library became the largest library system to eliminate overdue fines. The Urban Libraries Council created an interactive map that shows which library systems have taken steps to eliminate overdue fees.

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