Philadelphia’s library system officially closed the books Friday on charging overdue fines.
Joining Chicago and San Francisco, the Free Library ended its policy of charging patrons for past-due materials, also eliminating any existing overdue fines from library cards.
“By saying goodbye to fines, we’re welcoming back the nearly 88,000 cardholders who are currently unable to take full advantage of the library due to owing fines,” said Siobhan A. Reardon, president and director of the library system.
The library’s former policy imposed fines of 25 cents a day for a late book. Once members owed $5, their library privileges were restricted.
Now, those who don’t return their books on time will receive reminders that the items are due, and their cards will be blocked from further checkouts until the materials are returned or renewed. After 30 days past due, books will be considered lost. Library patrons will be required to return, pay for, or replace any lost or damaged items before they can check out more, the library said.
Inspired by Chicago’s library system, Councilmember Cherelle L. Parker introduced a resolution to eliminate the fees last fall. The measure was backed by Mayor Jim Kenney, who called the fines a “punitive practice.”
But the library is also anticipating increases in circulation, an uptick in library card sign-ups, and more overall visits to libraries throughout the city, Reardon said.
According to testimony from the Urban Libraries Council, Chicago’s elimination of fees contributed to a 240% increase in book returns over a three-week period.