New Orleans Public Library Eliminates Most Fines

NEW ORLEANS –– Most fines for overdue books are officially a thing of the past at the New Orleans Public Library, after the library board approved a new policy earlier this month.

In 2019, the library eliminated fines for youth materials. Less than a year later, it suspended fines on all overdue items in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These changes did not impact the system’s operating budget or result in fewer items being returned, according to Emily Painton, the executive director of the city’s library system.

“We’ve been effectively operating without fines for almost four years with no adverse effects to our budget or circulation,” she said in a press release. “Studies show that the threat of fines often discourages people from using their public library. It’s our mission to remove barriers to information, not create them, which is why we’re so excited to finally make this change permanent.”

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The new policy does not apply to interlibrary loan fines, which are $1 per day for overdue materials. In addition, fees for lost or damaged items will still apply.

 Painton said the decision to remove most overdue fines aligns NOPL with a 2019 resolution from the American Library Association, which views monetary library fines as a form of social inequity.

“The American Library Association asserts that imposition of monetary library fines creates a barrier to the provision of library and information services,” she said. “We believe that officially removing the punitive nature of late fines supports our strategic plan’s theme of equity and reinforces our commitment to providing services to everyone in our community.”

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