DLA Recommends Going Fine Free in Delaware Libraries

The Social Justice Committee of the Delaware Library Association thanks the Delaware Library Consortium and the Delaware Division of Libraries for their decision to suspend fines during the COVID-19 pandemic. We believe the statewide suspension has set a positive precedent for moving forward as a fine-free system. As library workers, we believe that information access should be free and available to all people, at all times; and as members of this committee, we recognize that the issue of library fines is an issue of social justice. 

When we impose fees on overdue items and block user access as those fees accrue, we create a barrier to access for the users who are most in need of the services we provide (1). There is also ample evidence that fines disproportionately impact people of color and those who are poor or unhoused (2). While these are examples of demonstrable negatives to charging fines, there are also demonstrable positives in doing away with them: research has shown that fines keep people from returning to the library, and ending fines encourages those users to come back. Not only that, it encourages those patrons with overdue books to return those materials without fear of repercussion, and in fact many libraries are learning that ending fines results in patrons bringing more books back to the library (3)

In the American Library Association’s January 28, 2019 Resolution on Monetary Library Fines as a Form of Social Inequity (4), it was resolved to update the ALA policy manual to reflect that ALA “urges libraries to scrutinize their practices of imposing fines on library patrons and actively move towards eliminating them.” The resolution also states that “monetary fines ultimately do not serve the core mission of the modern library.”

With this in mind, the Social Justice Committee asks the Delaware Division of Libraries, our county divisions, and all public library directors in our state to continue in this positive direction and consider making the move to becoming permanently fine free here in Delaware. 

  • This statement was approved by the executive board of the Delaware Library Association on October 5th, 2021. 

Additional info can be found in the Delaware Libraries Fines & Fees LibGuide  

If you have any comments, please fill out this form. 

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  1. https://infopeople.org/sites/default/files/civicrm/persist/contribute/files/webinar/2019/11_20_19/Slides_EliminatingFines.pdf
  2. https://www.dropbox.com/sh/pk77n53ujmsi2ec/AADvJVNQnt0hWKZmprErd_9sa?dl=0&preview=Articles+and+Research+-Going+Fine+Free.docx
  3. https://www.npr.org/2019/11/30/781374759/we-wanted-our-patrons-back-public-libraries-scrap-late-fines-to-alleviate-inequi
  4. https://www.ala.org/aboutala/sites/ala.org.aboutala/files/content/Resolution%20on%20Monetary%20Library%20Fines%20as%20a%20Form%20of%20Social%20Inequity-FINAL.pdf A