Fine Free Libraries Remove One More Barrier to Service

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Allegheny County Library Association continues to expand its fine-free program. Launched as a pilot in October, the program has already resulted in increased circulation and patron registrations beyond expectations.

The 14 participating libraries (with 18 locations) in the Fine-Free Library Program, along with ACLA’s Mobile Library Services (Bookmobile), have ceased charging overdue fines on outstanding resources and materials. The libraries have also granted amnesty on the overdue fines accrued on any items returned to their locations.  It should be noted that charges for lost items are not waived.

The Fine-Free Library Program was intended to eliminate the barrier that fines may present to residents.  Removing that barrier ensures on-going access to the valuable resources and programs libraries offer, and the program is already showing encouraging results.

Since November 2019, total circulation in seven of the nine initial, participating libraries has increased by nearly 14%.  New library card registrations in these libraries have also jumped 15% during the first three-month period.  Active library users in one of the participating libraries have increased by an astounding 48%.

“Fines can present a significant barrier for a segment of parents and children, making them reluctant to return to their local library when facing outstanding late fees and fines. This is counter to the primary goal of all of our libraries to encourage participation in library programs and access to the many services offered,” said Marilyn Jenkins, executive director of ACLA.   “We believe that library resources bring benefit to everyone, and ensuring access is of paramount importance.”

ACLA initiated the Fine Free Library Program in September 2019. Nine libraries were part of the first phase including: Baldwin Borough Public Library, Braddock Carnegie Library and its Turtle Creek satellite, C.C. Mellor Memorial Library in Edgewood and Forest Hills, Carnegie Free Library of Swissvale, F.O.R. Sto-Rox Library, Millvale Community Library, Monroeville Public Library, Penn Hills Library and its Lincoln Park satellite, and Wilkinsburg Public Library and its branch in Eastridge.  The second phase launched in November 2019 with the addition of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s Allegheny, East Liberty and Knoxville locations.

This program reflects a growing national trend of libraries that have embraced the fine-free concept, given evidence of its great success.  Libraries are no longer just places for books, but now offer free access to an abundance of new resources including technology workshops, small business support, 24/7 virtual access to eBooks and digital materials and many other experiences – all through a single, countywide library card.

Libraries across the County welcome all residents and encourage use of innovative resources, technology and programs.  The Fine Free Libraries have removed one more barrier to service.