Indianapolis Public Libraries has implemented a fine free policy, joining library systems around the U.S. that have eliminated “per day” late fines that accrue when materials are overdue. IndyPL says it is also forgiving the historic debt of more than 87,000 patron accounts to eliminate “barriers to library use that disproportionately affect low-income households.”
In addition to eliminating late fines, IndyPL says it forgave more than $2 million worth of outstanding fines and debt collection fees. The library says the changes support citywide efforts to build equity in Indianapolis.
“Our goal is to provide free and equitable access to all,” said Jackie Nytes, chief executive officer of IndyPL. “By removing the barrier of fines, we are more equipped to provide resources and opportunities to all members of our community.”
Historically, IndyPL says libraries have used overdue fines to encourage patrons to return materials on time and to supplement the operating budget. However, the library says many urban library systems believe such fines have a disproportionate effect on low-income families, which can deter them from using the libraries and the resources they can provide.
John Helling, director of public services at IndyPL, says fines may be manageable inconveniences for some patrons, but for others, they could add up and create a financial barrier.
“We have heard from patrons who feel that they can’t come back to The Library because of fines and fees on their cards,” said Helling. “Fines are not effective in getting people to bring books back, and are not sustainable with the increased use of electronic resources.”
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