january 2, 2020
Here at the Bloomfield Library, we believe in changing lives through the power of ideas, information, and imagination. By eliminating fines for our materials, we can continue to do just that, and reach even more of our community.
We believe a Public Library exists to serve the community and is based on the concept of sharing resources and services. Library fines, however, create distinct barriers; monetary fines present an economic barrier to those who cannot afford to pay them, and they create a barrier in public relations, both for staff who collect and manage the dues and for the patrons who may be reluctant to return materials or use the library at all.
Libraries that have adopted fine-free policies found that:
Library card registrations increased.
Borrowing of materials increased.
More library items were returned.
Students returned to the library to use homework resources.
Staff time was redirected from fines-handling to patron-focused services.
frequently asked questions
What is "fine free"?
Fine free means just that - no late charges on our materials. The Bloomfield Library Board of Trustees and staff want to ensure ALL of our town has access to our resources in the most barrier-free way. Fines also tend to penalize more vulnerable individuals or families who can't afford them.
Why the change to fine free?
It's good for our community! Our community is stronger when people have access to programs, services, and materials they need to pursue their educational, career, family, and life goals. Libraries are a place open to anyone and everyone. We hope this will encourage prior users to come back to the library and attract new users to experience our offerings.
Have other libraries eliminated late fines?
Yes! Visit https://endlibraryfines.info/fine-free-library-map/ to see globally how many libraries have adopted fine free policies. In BCCLS, Montclair, Hackensack, Livingston, Ramsey, Glen Ridge, and Englewood are also fine free.
Won't no fines prevent people from ever returning their items?
Late fines are not effective. Studies have shown that small fines have no impact on return rates. Once someone has a late fine, they are less likely to visit the library again. Libraries who have removed late fees report few adverse affects on material return rates. The public library model is based upon a trusting relationship between borrowers and a valued community resource. Library staff trusts that borrowers will return items on time, so others may use them. Other libraries have experienced an increase in return rates after the adoption of fine free policies.
When should I bring my items back then?
All items will still have a due date, and we encourage patrons to bring back their items by the date on their receipt. Be respectful of your fellow library users who may be waiting for items to be returned.
What happens if I have old fines on my account?
If you have outstanding fines accrued on your library card from Bloomfield items, stop in and we will waive them on the spot. No questions asked. However, if you have charges from lost or damaged material, please speak with us and we will work with you to find an equitable solution.
What happens if someone doesn't return their items?
If items are not returned by their due date, they will be considered late and must be renewed or returned. If items are overdue by 90-days, patrons will be charged for the replacement cost of the item, and their borrowing privileges will be suspended.
Patrons will be sent overdue reminders asking them to return the items once the item is late and periodically afterwards until the 90-day charge for the item occurs.
What about other BCCLS library materials that I borrow?
Fines are established by the lending library. If an item is borrowed from a library that still imposes fines, you will be assessed that late fine.
Do you charge for anything else?
Yes. Hotspots, Cake Pans, and Museum Passes will still accrue late fees or charges. Printing, scanning, faxing, and copies will also still have a fee. Visit here for the fine codes.
How will this affect the library's budget?
While the Library is always carefully watching funding, any loss of overdue fine revenue is tiny compared with the good this new policy will do for our community. Overdue fines account for less than .5% of the library's budget and going fine free will not significantly impact the budget moving forward. In addition, due to the rise in electronic materials (i.e. Libby and RBDigital) and other factors, fines are not a sustainable form of revenue for the library.