Burlington Public Library Expands Fine-Free Program to All Burlington-Owned Items
Effective April 1, 2021, the Burlington Public Library will no longer assess fines for overdue items. In doing this, Burlington joins more than half of the libraries in Wisconsin who have eliminated fines for all users.
Will people still return the books if there are no fines?
Yes! Surveys and statistics from libraries around the state and the country show that people return library books not because they’ll be fined, but because they feel an obligation to do right by other users. However, fines do dissuade people from coming back. They lack the funds to pay, feel stigmatized, or make the decision to rent or purchase digital items at low-cost rather than pay an eventual fine. We believe that libraries contribute to a strong community, and that barriers to access hinder that.
I didn’t mind paying my fines. I felt good about contributing to the library.
That is a common sentiment. The good news is, the library will still be happy to take your donation. The better news is that people on fixed or limited incomes can now also feel good about the library.
Doesn’t the Library need the fine revenue to operate?
Libraries aren’t financed primarily by fine revenue. In 2019, fine revenue was less than 1% of our total operating budget. And we don’t feel good where we have to make decisions about waiving or enforcing fines based on budgetary considerations, rather than the individual situation of the patron.
I accrued some fines a few years ago. Do I still have to pay those?
Probably not. We cleared old overdue fines on Burlington-owned items for our patrons. We want people to come and use their library more than we want them to pay for that VHS tape that slid under their car seat in 2012 and didn’t re-emerge until mid-2013. (True story.)
If you’re not sure if you still have fines on your account, or if you do still have overdue fines and want to see if there’s a way that they can be cleared, please call the library.
Are there any caveats?
Why, yes there are!
- Materials belonging to other libraries may still have overdue fines assessed.
- All items that are damaged will still be charged for repair or replacement.
- All items that are long overdue will be assumed lost, and a bill will be sent for replacement. If the patron returns the billed item, the bill will be removed.
- Because of the ongoing costs associated with our wireless hotspots, they will still accrue overdue fines on a daily basis.