Many area libraries waived overdue fines at the height of the pandemic, but now several have decided to make their no-fines policy more permanent.
The Attleboro and Mansfield Public Libraries recently announced that they have decided not to pay longer-term fines.
Libraries had waived fines after reopening during the pandemic to bring patrons back to their facilities and ease the burden on those struggling financially. The measures were also seen as one less worry amid COVID.
Here is a breakdown of the library’s latest fines policies:
Attleboro Public Library administrators voted unanimously to eliminate fines for most overdue items starting last Friday, July 1 — the start of the new budget year.
All previously accrued late fees are waived.
The policy aims to make the library more accessible to everyone, officials said.
“It’s a trend that’s gaining acceptance and momentum across the country,” said Diane Mangiaratti, the councilor who first proposed the change.
The American Library Association passed a resolution earlier this year recognizing fines as “a form of social inequality,” public library officials point out. The ALA has called on libraries across the country to find a way to weed them out, because charging fines drives away people who can get the most out of free libraries.
Attleboro’s popular library hotspots and passes, all free with a library card, will still incur late fees if returned after their expiration date.
Additionally, items borrowed from outside the SAILS library network will also incur late fees. The network includes 70 public libraries in the Southeast Massachusetts region.
Library items can be borrowed for two to four weeks, depending on the item.
Customers 60 and over will continue to be exempt from late fees.
Traffic Supervisor Katie Butler has been advising customers of the changes at checkout for several weeks.
Richards Memorial Library in North Attleboro recently eliminated fines and says it has received a great response from the community.
Library manager Frank Ward said the library has seen more items returned and an increase in library usage overall.
However, items pulled from other SAILS libraries may incur late penalties.
The local library will always charge for lost or damaged items.
In another change, the Richards Memorial Library extended due dates for children’s books from two weeks to several weeks.
The Boyden Public Library took over the fines.
“We were waiving fines at the height of the pandemic, but have returned to normal policy,” said director Libby O’Neill. “If something is late, we fine customers.”
That policy could change as O’Neill pointed out that she’s only been in the job for about three months.
General items are subject to a simple fine of 5 cents per day to a maximum of $1.
Other fines: museum passes, $5 per day/$25 maximum; DVDs, 50 cents per day/$5 maximum; hot spots, $10 per day/$50 maximum; and rental books, 25 cents per day/$10 maximum.
Mansfield Public Library has been fine-free since July 1.
There are no fines for overdue books, except for the 14-day loan of new books, and no fines for audiobooks, CDs, and magazines.
The Norfolk Public Library does not have fines for books.
It became fine-free, starting with children’s books, in the spring of 2021, a library worker said. Last fall, the policy was extended to all books.
There are fines for late DVDs and computer games.
Norton Public Library continues to have no fines.
“We were fine-free for all COVID and the board voted to make it permanent and forgive all old fines last September,” director Lee Parker said of the library board.
The reasoning is in line with the recommendation of the national library group.
“By removing outstanding fines, we are removing barriers to accessing our materials and services for library visitors, and increasing reading and lifelong learning opportunities for all,” said the library on its website.
However, there are exceptions to the fines policy. Late fees are still charged for museum passes, equipment, and Chromebooks.
The Plainville Public Library still charges late fees, said library director Melissa Campbell.
The city library has late fees, but a few times a year the library waives fines for donations to the local food pantry.
Fiske Library administrators have voted to have no fines as of January 1.
This does not apply to the “Library of Things” or museum passes – both have late fines of $5 per day – nor to lost items and items from other libraries.
Rental books will continue to cost $1 per week with walk-in renewal allowed and a late fee of 25 cents per day.