MPL Eliminating Fines – FAQs

Memphis Public Libraries has come to another giant pinnacle to change our business model and continue our quest towards lifelong learning in regards to how we serve our customers.  According to research, the following are benefits for eliminating Library fines and fees:

  • Overdue fines create barriers that interfere with access for those that need it most.
  • Research shows that family households making less than $25,000 held 33% of the unpaid MPL fines. These families only make up 27% of the city’s population.  More than likely, homes have children.
  • Cost and time utilized to administer fine payments as low as 10₵ is counterproductive.
  • Most people that have fines stop using the library! Eliminating fines will bring these folks back into the library.
  • Fines create an adversarial relationship between the customer and the library representative.
  • Applying fines in order to promote the return of materials often results in customers unable to pay the fines, keeping the materials, and never returning to the library.
  • “There is mounting evidence that indicates eliminating fines increases library card adoption and library usage,” according to the American Library Association.
  • Increasing library usage and circulation is a benefit to everyone!

Question: Why are we eliminating fines?

Answer: We are eliminating library fines because the library is a public facility and we are not in business to gain profits from our patrons.  In other words, by imposing library fines, we are prohibiting patrons from borrowing books when library fines add up. We could potentially be driving away patrons who might rely on many of the products and services the public library offers.  ALSO, fines adversely affect the most vulnerable members of our community and create obstacles to individuals who most need access to our materials/services.

Question: If I already have fines, will they be eliminated?

Answer: Yes, as long as all overdue material has been returned. However, the fine elimination applies to overdue fines ONLY.  The customer will still be responsible for any lost, damaged, or materials not returned.

Question: How will eliminating fines affect book returns?  And, do we suspect there will be an increase in non-returned books?

Answer: We do not expect a major increase or decrease in books being returned due to fines being eliminated. In review of other cities that have adopted a “no fine” approach, there has actually been an uptick in return of books that were labeled missing. Removing fines has also brought back customers that have not visited libraries in years due to the shame of having fines. Libraries are invaluable to everyone and it is our wish that by removing fines everyone will continue to enjoy the many benefits that the library offers.

Question: How do you think that taking fines away will help people become more responsible, especially children?

Answer: Overall, we are hoping that trusting customers by allowing them to check out materials, take care of those things and returning them will teach responsibility.

Question: How can we afford not to collect overdue fines?  Is there a portion of the Library budget that will be affected if the fines are not collected?

Answer: Fines are a very small percentage of our overall budget. By going fine free, we create a Library environment that helps all customers have access to our services and, based upon our Library Brand Promises, the library will welcome more people, the potential of transforming how we are viewed in the public’s eye will rise, it will help those who are unable to pay fines, and we can present customers a fresh and fun way to serve them.

Question: If there are no fines, would that change the renewal time for books, etc., by giving the customer more time with books and there will be no penalties?

Answer: Presently, the time limit will be the same.  Maybe, more modifications will be done in the future.

Question: Will the lost revenue adversely affect the library?

Answer: The overwhelming majority of library customers use the materials responsibly and return them within the specified loan period. Additionally, the City of Memphis has ensured funding for libraries so that we are able to maintain high quality, timely, and relevant collections to meet our community’s needs.

Question: Does the fine elimination apply to overdue fines only or does it include lost books as well?

Answer: The fine elimination applies to overdue fines ONLY.  The customer will still be responsible for any lost, damaged, or materials not returned.

Question: When will this change go into effect?

Answer: November 18, 2019

Question: Is this change going to be final for fines?

Answer: Yes.  Once this is set-in-motion, it will be part of the business plan.