Tuscaloosa Public Library is ditching late book fines

By WVUA 23 News Reporter Jeremiah Hatcher

The Tuscaloosa Public Library is taking new steps toward keeping information freely available by eliminating late fees for books and many other materials available for checkout.

TPL’s new fine-free system means overdue fines are gone. In fact, all outstanding overdue fines have been waived from patrons’ accounts.

But don’t assume that means you can check things out and keep them without penalty. If your checked-out items aren’t returned, they’ll be billed to your library account and you won’t be able to check out anything else until you return those items. Once you return your items, the charges will be removed and you can check books out again.

Children’s materials at TPL have been fine free since 2014.

More than 200 library systems across the U.S. have eliminated late fines because they can be a source of anxiety and dread for visitors, and late fees can prevent patrons from returning.

These systems have found that by removing late fees, there’s been a rise in library card registrations and more materials are being returned — sometimes decades after their due dates.

Library regular Glenda Blackshear said she’s no stranger to late fees, and she’s hoping the community will make good use of this new incentive.

“I think it’s a lovely gesture by the library to say we’re open to anybody to take advantage of what we have to offer and there are no penalties anymore,” Blackshear said.

Due dates for books and other materials vary, but the library will also automatically renew checkout for certain items after they pass their first due date. TPL offers emailed notices so you can stay up to date on your items’ statuses.

“I think it’s going to be wonderful for the library,” said library regular Gena Buffaloe. “One of the things I was always worried about was getting my books back on time and now I don’t have to worry about that. I think that’s going to be a really extra incentive for people to come to the library.”

Overdue fines make up less than 1% of the library’s yearly revenue, and by nixing those employees can spend more time helping patrons.

You can learn more about the new fine-free system right here.

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