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Fine Free

Eliminating Late Fines FAQs

Why does the Library want to eliminate overdue fines?

It is our vision at the Worcester Public Library (WPL) that we will be a welcoming destination and the leading provider of resources to inform, enlighten and enrich our diverse community. Our mission states that the Library makes information and services available to all people. With this knowledge, we have come to recognize that charging overdue fines undermines the mission of our Library. Fines are a barrier to access, eliminating overdue fines and increasing access to the Library benefits our entire community.

This is why WPL has decided to eliminate fines for our patrons, and forgive outstanding fines that are currently owed to our Library. Public libraries play a vital role in the development of early literacy skills, bridging the digital divide, and providing access to library materials and services our patrons may not have otherwise. Data clearly shows that late fines are not an effective means of promoting the return of books, and in some cases may actually work against that goal.

The Worcester Public Library belongs to the people of Worcester. It is our job as a public library to ensure that all members of our community can access and enjoy our vast collection. We hope that removing fines will encourage prior users to come back to the Library, while attracting new users to experience our offerings.

What led to this decision?

Our staff felt strongly that eliminating fines for overdue materials was something that would benefit a great deal of our patrons. We have offered short-term fine forgiveness programs in the past and these have always had a very positive reception. Building on this knowledge we read articles, spoke with staff at other libraries that have gone fine free, and analyzed our statistics and financial data.

Here are a few things we learned:

  • The American Library Association (ALA) encourages libraries to promote the removal of all barriers to library and informational services, particularly overdue charges.
  • Library systems that have eliminated fines report a positive experience for both patrons and staff members.
  • The administrative costs associated with collecting fines from patrons can equal or exceed the revenue earned.
  • Once the stigma of library fines is gone, some communities have found that the removal and forgiveness of fines also leads to the return of patrons, along with the return of long overdue library books.

Will people return items if there are no late fines?

Libraries that have taken the steps to eliminate fines have reported similar return rates after going fine free, with some reporting increased return rates. The Worcester Public Library will continue to monitor how this change will affect patrons, and will make improvements as we see necessary.

Patrons will still receive reminders when library materials are due. Those items that are not returned will be billed.

Are there any fines/fees that will still be charged to my account?

There will still be overdue fines on Kill-A-Watts, museum passes, telescopes, eReaders, Wi-Fi Hotspots, Launchpads, and similar library devices.

Materials from other libraries may be subject to overdue fines that are determined by the lending library.

If an item is overdue for 28 days it will be considered lost, and fees for the replacement of the item will be billed to your account.

Any accrual of fines or fees totaling more than $10 will result in your library card being blocked.

What do I have to do to have fines forgiven and removed from my account?

If you have overdue fines from WPL that you accrued before we went fine free, you are no longer required to pay these fines. Staff of WPL are currently in the process of clearing individual patron accounts. If you have a question about your account please call 508-799-1655 ext. 2 and ask to speak to a circulation supervisor.

I haven’t been to the library in years. Will my card still work?

Your card may be expired, in which case it will have to be reactivated. There is also a chance it may have been purged from the CW MARS system. You can ask for assistance at your local branch or at the Welcome Desk of the Main Library, or call 508-799-1655 ext. 2 to find out what steps you need to take in order to get a current Worcester Public Library card.

I thought I cleared up my late fines, why am I seeing a new charge on my account?

There are a number of reasons why you may be seeing new charges on your account. At the Worcester Public Library, there are still late fines for devices such as Wi-Fi Hotspots, telescopes, museum passes, etc. There are also fees for lost items. Items borrowed from other libraries may also incur fees based on the policies of the loaning library. In those cases, you will need to contact the library that loaned the item directly with any inquiries.

How can I pay my late fines on items from other libraries?

You may pay late fines from other libraries online or at any Worcester Public Library location.

I have always thought of paying my fines as a donation to the library. Can I still donate?

Yes, the Worcester Public Library is fortunate to have two organizations supporting our programs and services. Donations to the Library can be made to the Friends of the Worcester Public Library, or the Worcester Public Library Foundation.

How will the library replace revenue from fines?

Worcester Public Library’s overdue fines have always been turned over to the City of Worcester. With automatic renewals and increased usage of electronic items, the amount we receive in overdue fines continues to decrease every year. Although there will be some revenue lost, representatives of the City of Worcester, the Worcester Public Library Board of Directors, and Library staff feel that overdue fines do more harm than good.

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