Why is the library removing fines for children’s and young adult materials?

Many libraries are taking a second look at fines, and recent research suggests that overdue fines pose a barrier to access for low income families who are most in need of library materials. While a few dollars in fines may not seem like much to many of us, for families who are struggling to get by, this is an expense they can’t always manage. We have heard anecdotally that some low income families choose not to use the library at all for fear of accruing fines. This is counter to the mission of public libraries. We are committed to open and free access to library materials, and this new policy will enable us to do this for all children, regardless of means. Young children cannot pay their own fines and even older kids often don’t have reliable transportation to get to the library to return materials on time. If busy parents have trouble staying on top of due dates and accrue fines they can’t afford to pay, why should we penalize children by blocking access to library materials?

Don’t fines teach personal responsibility to children?

We feel that it is the parents’ role to teach responsibility, not the library’s. We provide the access, and of course it is completely up to parents and caregivers to determine how and when their children may use the library. For many families, restricting access to books (the consequence if fines reach the $10 threshold) is not the way they choose to teach responsibility. We are opening up library access and allowing parents the freedom to determine whether to set restrictions.

What kind of impact will this have on the library?

We hope that this policy will increase usage of our children’s collection and expand our reach to families in our service area, especially those who are low income. We do expect that our fine revenue will decrease, since we will only be charging fines on adult materials. On average, the library generates about $3,000 per year in fines on children’s materials. While that is a small part of our budget, we will need to make up for that shortfall. For that reason, we have launched a “Fine Free for Kids” fundraising campaign. Our goal is to raise the $3,000 by the end of 2019.

If people are interested in donating to the fine-free fund, what should they do?​

Donations can be made in person at the library. We have a fun donation receptacle shaped like a dinosaur at the children’s desk for the fine-free fund! We accept cash, checks or credit cards. Or you can mail a check payable to the Ellsworth Public Library (20 State Street, Ellsworth, Maine, 04605) and make sure to indicate that the donation is for the fine-free fund. Thank you!


For more information about fine-free for kids and the library’s plans to become a Family Place library, please click here to read an article from The Ellsworth American.