Library Eliminates Fines, Aiming for Equity and Accessibility

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Gary Caldwell for ELi

The East Lansing Public has a new fine-free policy, eliminating fines for late returns on items such as books, CD’s, and DVD’s.

Over the last few years, many public libraries across the country have started using a fine-free policy.

By enacting the new policy, announced on July 1, the East Lansing Public Library (ELPL) is hoping to become more accessible to the entire community. 

“[Eliminating late fines] has been a trend across the country for libraries, and it’s really to make things more equitable for all of our patrons,” Library Director Kristin Shelley said. “It just makes it more accessible to all patrons, so that we are more able to provide free access to information and knowledge.”

ELPL had been considering taking this step for the past few years and had already removed late fines from children’s materials over a year prior to its decision in January of 2020 to eliminate late fines all together.  

And when the library closed on March 16 because of the coronavirus, ELPL stopped collecting fines and marking items as overdue, since there was no way to safely return items to the library. Instead, they renewed all already checked-out items. 

On June 15, ELPL began curbside pick-up and drop-off to continue operating safely through the pandemic.

Although fines for late items are gone, patrons are still expected to return their items on time.

If patrons do not return items by the return dates, then their library cards are temporarily blocked, which means they cannot check-out any new items until they return their late items.

Patrons who keep items long past their due dates have their accounts charged for the cost of the items, but once they return the item, the charge is erased.

Before the new policy, patrons were charged a certain amount of money for each day they did not return a late item. Though that is no longer the case, patrons are still required to pay for damaged or lost items, along with paying late fines for express items, which are checked-out for reduced time due to their popularity. 

In ELPL’s July 1 press release announcing the new policy, Shelley said the library’s goal is to become accessible to all of its patrons. 

“As the East Lansing Public Library Board of Trustees look at making the library a more inclusive and equitable organization, removing the barrier of fines is a good step to making the library more accessible to our patrons,” she said. “This is the next step in helping the library to provide free access to information and knowledge.”

According to a press release issued by the City yesterday, the library “is tentatively expected to re-open in a limited capacity on Monday, July 27. Services and hours will be limited and masks will be required.” Find out more here.

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