DLA Fine Free Recommendation
CORRECTION: A previous version of this letter was erroneously addressed to the Delaware Division of Libraries. The letter has been corrected and is now directed only at the Delaware Library Consortium, our county divisions, and public library directors in Delaware.
The Social Justice Committee of the Delaware Library Association thanks the Delaware Library Consortium for their decision to suspend fines during the COVID-19 pandemic. We believe the statewide suspension 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 equity and 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 those who are poor or unhoused (2), again alienating a group most in need of our services. 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 Library Consortium, 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.
If you have any comments, please fill out this form.
- 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