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Why libraries in this Virginia city are suspending overdue fines for 1 year

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Posted at 3:50 PM, Jul 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-02 16:00:00-04

NORFOLK, Va. -- Norfolk Public Library is joining other libraries across the country to begin a fine-free trial.

Starting July 1, NPL will begin a one-year fine-free trial and suspend overdue fines for late books and materials until June 30, 2022.

NPL currently charges 20 cents per day, per item, up to a $6.00 maximum for books and materials. All DVDs, reference books, inter library loan materials, book club kits, and Toddle Totes are charged $1.25 per day, up to a $10 maximum.

After 28 days after the due date, the item is considered lost and patrons are charged the replacement cost and processing fee.

Accounts delinquent 30 or more days are referred to the Norfolk Department of Finance and a $25 non-negotiable fee is added, even if the items are returned.

During this trial period, patrons are still expected to return or renew items on or before their due date. Fees for lost or damaged books and materials will still continue.

There will still be a checkout period with up to two renewals.

NPL will evaluate fines in one year.

Richmond Public Library also went fine free by removing fines for children and young adults in June of 2019. Since then the library system has eliminated fines to provide "free and equal access for all."

"A lot of research done by librarians around the country shows without a doubt that overdue fines are an ineffective method for getting items back," reads a post on the library system's website. "People get sick, snow falls, work calls; life happens. Overdue fines don’t make patrons more responsible, they just make it more difficult for people who can’t always afford it when the unexpected hits."

Officials pointed out that money collected from overdue fines equated to less than 1% of the library’s system's total budget for the 2018-2019 fiscal year.

"By eliminating overdue fines, we hope to save money by no longer having to send notices regarding bills for fines," officials wrote.

To see the other libraries that have adopted this policy, view the interactive map of fine-free libraries.