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Effective February 1, 2022 overdue fines will no longer accrue on Northfield Library-owned materials, and cardholders with existing fines on Northfield Library-owned materials should call or come into the library to have staff waive past fines.

Q: What do we mean “fine free”? Does this mean I don’t have to return my books? 

A: Books are still due when they’re due, and most may be renewed. You will still receive a notice from us asking you to return or pay for any long overdue items, but when the items are returned in good condition, there is no longer a late fine.

Q: Is everyone fine free?

A: Yes! All materials owned by the Northfield Public Library will no longer accrue fines.

Q: Why do I have a fine on my account if you’re fine free?

A: It could be that the items on your account were borrowed through SELCO from a library that still charges late fines. Fine free only applies to items owned by NPL.

Q: What about my old fines? Do I still have to pay them?

A: Give us a call or come in! If the items have been returned we will happily waive all of your past fines.

Q: Don’t fines encourage people to return their books?

A: Fines don’t bring books back. In fact sometimes it’s the opposite. The Chicago Public Library saw a 240% increase in returned books in the month after they eliminated fines in September of 2019. Salt Lake City’s Public Library saw late returns drop from 9% to 4% after fines were eliminated. Six months after fine elimination at the High Plains Library District in northern Colorado, the library saw an increase in circulation and 95% of their materials were returned within one week of their original due date.

Q: Why go fine free? 

A: Fines bring in very little revenue for the library and that figure has been steadily in decline, but they can be a real burden for those without the means to pay. Going fine-free helps erase barriers to library use that disproportionately affect low-income households. This is because when patrons begin accumulating fines and fees, they become less inclined to revisit the library. Libraries provide a significant social benefit to low-income patrons, since it allows them to access a wide variety of materials and services without having to spend additional funds. Fines, therefore, create an obstacle to library access that can be harder for those patrons to overcome compared to other borrowers.

Q: Why are so many libraries going fine free?

A: Libraries have been going fine free for years but since the American Library Association passed a resolution in 2019 citing mounting evidence that eliminating fines increases library card sign ups and library use, the number has increased dramatically. This resolution also recognized fines as a form of social inequity and urged libraries to actively move toward eliminating them. As libraries throughout the country have gone fine free the response has been a high return of materials and high return of library users.