No more overdue fines: Richmond Public Library turns the page on charging for late books

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RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Richmond Public Library (RPL) has joined 200 cities and municipalities across the United States in eliminating overdue book fines. At present, 10 percent of cardholders with RPL are prohibited from checking out materials, and nearly 25 percent of all cardholders owe money to RPL.

Scott Firestine, the Library Director of RPL, says that fines are now erased.

“I’m just overwhelmed with how much more pleasant and positive it is in the library just by the elimination of a 10 cent fine,” Firestine said. “It’s been a fine since 1972, it’s been 10 cents for almost 50 years.”

Firestine says nobody should be afraid of coming to get a book.

“I don’t want your fines. I want you to check out books and enjoy the adventures you can get from books.”

Scott Firestine

While the books at the Richmond Public Library may be fine-free — be careful. They’re not entirely fee-free.

“We wanted to make it free for all, but we didn’t want to have a free-for-all,” Firestine said. “By eliminating fines it means we are eliminating the charges for being overdue. It doesn’t mean that people are no longer responsible or accountable for the materials they borrow from our library.”

You can renew up to 10 weeks, but if you go 30 days without renewal you must either return the item or you’re going to have to pay the total price of the item.

Firestine says the elimination of fines is a big deal to those with little to spend.

“Many people are gonna take the 10 cents and they’re gonna pay it ten days late — that’s a dollar. A dollar to many people is nothing, but a dollar to someone living in poverty — that’s significant to them. They’re not going to have to worry about that anymore,” Firestine said.

According to Firestine, overdue fines disproportionately affect low-income communities, African American communities, Hispanic communities, and communities with low numbers of college graduates.

He says any lost revenue from fines adds up to less than 1 percent of RPL’s total budget. He adds also that Richmond poverty sits at 25 percent — accounting for one out of every four people in the city.

“We want to support families and we want to support the learning environment of Richmond,” Firestine said. “The elimination of fines absolutely moves that forward. This barrier is now gone.”

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