New Year, No Fines!

KPL is Fine-Free Beginning January 1, 2020

Have overdue fines kept you from enjoying everything Kalamazoo Public Library has to offer? Then we have good news for you. The New Year means No Fines! From all of us at KPL, Welcome Back!

The standard practice of assessing overdue fines has long been justified as a means to motivate borrowers to return materials in a timely manner. However, research has shown that while many users incur late fees, those who are able to pay will keep visiting and borrowing while those who are unable to pay simply stop using the library­—and in many instances fail to return overdue materials.

Kalamazoo Public Library constantly strives to identify ways to increase library access and improve services for everyone in our community. That is why beginning on January 1, 2020, KPL will be fine-free!

Why fine-free?

  • It removes a barrier to access: fines for overdue materials disproportionately impacts residents of lower socioeconomic status.
  • Late fines are not effective: fines do not impact return rates but do contribute to loss of materials.
  • It’s fiscally responsible: revenue attributed to fines has fallen steadily in the last five years and represents less than 0.5% of the library’s operating revenue.
  • KPL children’s materials have already been fine-free since 1989!

What does Fine-Free @KPL mean?

  • On December 31, all current overdue fines will be waived (excludes lost or damaged material fees and referral charges)
  • No more daily fines for overdue materials
  • Patrons are still responsible for returning items and paying for any lost or damaged materials
  • A series of reminders to return overdue materials will be sent
  • Materials that are more than 10 days overdue will result in your account being blocked until they are returned
  • You will be billed the replacement cost for any items that are damaged or overdue by 30 days. Accounts owing more than $30 will be sent to collections if the materials are not returned or paid for after 21 days from the billing date. This information is NOT reported to credit bureaus.

Kalamazoo Public Library is proud to join fine-free libraries across the country and we look forward to welcoming back thousands of patrons who have stopped using the library as a result of fines.


When is KPL going fine-free?
KPL is going fine-free on January 1, 2020.

What is fine-free?
Starting January 1, 2020, materials will no longer accrue fines if they are overdue. Patrons will still be responsible for replacement charges for lost or damaged materials. However, once a lost material is returned, the entire replacement cost is dropped.

Why is KPL going fine-free?
Fines do not encourage the on-time return of materials. What fines do is prevent access for patrons who cannot afford to pay for fines. At any given time, 10% of KPL’s patrons have their accounts blocked due to overdue fines. We want to remove as many barriers to access as possible, and fines represent a significant barrier to residents of lower socioeconomic status.

Also, going fine-free is in keeping with our KPL Plan, commitment to Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity, and our customer service philosophy of Creating Community. We want all Kalamazoo residents to use the library without worrying about whether they can afford it.

How does going fine-free affect the library’s budget?
It will not. For the current fiscal year, revenue from fines is expected to be 0.2% ($20,100) of our annual operating budget. Additionally, the time cost allocated for staff interactions regarding overdue fines exceeds the overall cost of the fines themselves.

What happens when items are overdue?
Patrons are still responsible for returning materials. Any materials that are 10 days overdue will result in the patron’s account being blocked until the items are returned. This block also applies to access to digital materials. When materials are 30 days overdue, patrons will be charged the replacement cost for it. Once those items are returned, the entire bill is removed from the patron’s account.

Accounts owing more than $30 will be sent to a collection agency if the materials are not returned or paid for after 21 days from the billing date. This information is not reported to credit bureaus.

How does having lost or damaged item fees on my account affect my ability to use the library?
If the material is overdue at 30 days, a bill for the replacement cost is automatically placed on the patron’s account. Also, if something is returned damaged to the point that the library cannot repair it, a damaged charge will be placed on that patron’s account. The patron will not be able to check out materials until these bills are paid.

However, anyone can come into our locations and use our computers, attend our programs, get answers to their questions, or just sit and read, regardless of what they may owe the library.

But will patrons turn their materials in on time?
Interestingly, libraries that have eliminated overdue fines have found that return rates actually go up. By removing the threat of daily accumulating late fines, people are less likely to avoid returning to the library and more likely to bring back any overdue items they’ve checked out. No late fines mean more people using the library.

What about increased wait times for holds?
Our research of other fine-free libraries indicates that hold times are minimally affected. KPL’s collection development team will monitor the number of copies vs holds ratio and adjust accordingly to limit any effects on wait times.

What about fines due prior to the January 1, 2020 date?
Fine-free only affects overdue fines starting January 1, 2020. Until then, KPL is following our current policy for overdue materials.

Will existing overdue fines be removed on January 1?
Yes, any existing overdue fines will be waived on December 31, 2019. Bills for lost, damaged and collections will remain on patron accounts.

Overdue Notice Timeline

  • Reminder email about the due date two days before the due date (email notice)
  • Three courtesy renewals (as long as there are no holds on the item)
  • Overdue notice sent three days after an item is overdue (email, SMS or phone notice)
  • Account is blocked when material(s) is 10 days overdue
  • Second overdue notice sent at 15 days overdue (email, SMS or phone notice)
  • Billing notice sent by KPL at 30 days overdue indicating patron has been billed for overdue materials (email or paper notice)
  • Account sent to collections 21 days after being billed for materials if balance is at least $30

Fine-Free Library Studies


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