February 17, 2022
Today, the Austin City Council unanimously voted to eliminate fines for overdue library materials at Austin Public Library.
“The Austin Public Library is committed to providing free and equitable access to all of our resources for the citizens of Austin,” stated Austin Public Library director Roosevelt Weeks. “We want to make sure our resources are available to those impacted the most by fines.”
Late fines create a financial barrier for many people in accessing library materials, and have been found to be an ineffective way of encouraging materials returns. Studies of libraries in other communities that have eliminated late fines have found that ending late fines actually results in a higher rate of books being returned, as people are less likely to avoid the library if they are not concerned about having to pay money.
In 2019, in acknowledgement that monetary library fines are a form of social inequity, the American Library Association passed a resolution encouraging libraries throughout the nation to discontinue fees for overdue library materials as a mechanism to increase library usage and expand access for all populations. Over 400 libraries in the United States have already removed fines for overdue materials.
Earlier this year, the Austin Library Commission issued a unanimous recommendation to City Council that late fines be eliminated at Austin Public Library.
“The Library Commission is very excited for what this change means for ensuring more equitable access to our libraries,” stated Patricia Dabbert, Chair of the Austin Library Commission. “I am grateful for the work my fellow commissioners have done in taking the lead on this issue."
The move to going fine-free is not retroactive, but the Library is investigating equitable ways to help cardholders with existing fines so that they may continue using their cards.
In 2018, the Austin Public Library eliminated fines for overdue children’s materials. Also, in 2021, the Library exempted all children who are currently enrolled in a school in Travis County from the non-resident User Fee.
Austin Public Library has published an FAQ to help library customers understand what this change will mean for them.