Beginning June 1, 2021 the Princeton Public Library will no longer collect fines for late returns. Patrons are expected to return materials by their due dates to ensure that all library users have equitable access to materials. However, after the initial two-week loan period cardholders can renew the item for up to four weeks, if there are no holds placed on the item.
After much consideration, it was determined that the benefits of going fine-free outweighed the message and income associated with the practice. This shift will not significantly effect the budget or the collection. Based on the experience of other libraries that have made this transition, people are more likely to return items when they know they will not be penalized for the extra time. Likewise, late fines only account for small amount of the overall library income, a price that is worth the increase in usage and outreach.
Another factor is the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion in providing resources to the community. The library does not want to be associated with the concept of fine collection as a disciplinary action. Eliminating fines allows access to library materials to the entire community equally. By removing this obstacle, the library becomes more accessible to all patrons. The board of trustees believe that visiting the library should be a positive experience, and in no way cause the discomfort or embarrassment related to the collection of fines. To set the stage, going forward, the library is also retroactively forgiving existing fines of less than $10 to provide a clean slate for those who have put off coming back because of a fine balance.
This change will not apply to lost or damaged items or for special collections. Special collections, such as hotspots will continue to accrue late fees based on the expense and demand of the items. Cardholders who owe $10 or more in charges related to lost or damaged items, or other charges will have their cards blocked from use. Borrowing privileges will be reinstated upon return or renewal of overdue items or when account is in good standing. A good-faith reminder notification will be sent 7, 14, and 21 days after items are due. The item will be considered lost after 21 days. Such notifications are a courtesy and the library assumes no responsibility for receipt of overdue notices.
Another exception for cardholders are items borrowed through inter-library loan. Patrons will be responsible for overdue fines when visiting other libraries that charge fines for overdue materials. This applies to materials requested from libraries outside of the PrairieCat system, depending on the policy of the owning library.
The Princeton Public Library hopes this change will encourage more people to come in and checkout the variety of library materials available. The library offers printing, in addition to copying, laminating and faxing for a small fee. The library also offers free wi-fi and computer use. Lobby service will continue into the foreseeable future, but we are open to browsing the collection. Check out the mobile app by downloading the PrairieCat App from the App Store and selecting Princeton Public Library. With the user-friendly app, you can access your account from any and all of your mobile devices.