Last Updated: Sep 01, 2019     Views: 137

Will outstanding overdue fines be waived?
Yes! On September 16, 2019, the Library will clear all outstanding overdue fines from all patron records. No exceptions, no questions. You are fabulously fine free!

Why did the Library decide to eliminate overdue fines?
The San Francisco Public Library was a pioneer in the fine free library movement. SFPL eliminated fines for children and teens in 1974. In recent years, inspired by other library systems that had eliminated fines for overdue materials for patrons of all ages, the Library partnered with the San Francisco Financial Justice Project of the Treasurer’s Office to study whether SFPL should go fine free. The full report on the findings of this study can be found here: sfpl.org/uploads/files/pdfs/commission/Fine-Free-Report011719.pdf

The study found that the elimination of overdue fines in libraries had several positive outcomes:

  • Increase patron access to materials and services
  • Reduce the inequitable impact of overdue fines
  • Improve patron relationships with their library
  • Optimize library staff time and increase staff efficiency

Additionally, research shows overdue fines do not ensure borrowed materials end up back on shelves.

Who was involved in making the decision for SFPL to go fine free and waive outstanding fines?
After reviewing the findings from the study developed by Library staff and the team at the Financial Justice Project, the San Francisco Public Library Commission voted to approve a resolution urging the City’s Board of Supervisors to amend the Library’s fines and fees schedule, eliminating all overdue fines.

Additionally, the Library Commission voted to approve a resolution urging the Board of Supervisors to pass an ordinance to forgive all outstanding overdue fines owed to the Library and authorize the San Francisco Public Library to clear all outstanding overdue fines from patron accounts.

The two resolutions went before the Board of Supervisors and the Mayor for adoption through the City’s Fiscal Year 2019-2020 budget process.

What if I misplaced a book and can’t return it? Did the San Francisco Public Library eliminate replacement fees?
While the Library eliminated overdue fines, Library users are still responsible for fees associated with the replacement of lost or damaged books and other materials they check out.

Under this new policy, it is important to understand the difference between overdue fines and billed-item fees. Overdue fines are the daily charges applied to items not returned by their specified due date. These are the fines that will no longer be charged to patrons. Billed-item fees, or just fees, represent the charges applied for lost, damaged, or unreturned materials and are still in effect.

What about personal responsibility? How will the Library encourage people to return overdue items?
The Library encourages patrons to return books in a responsible and timely fashion to the Library so others may enjoy the shared resources of their Library. Per the Library’s existing procedures, items not returned within 30 days of their due date will go to billed status.

Patrons will continue to be responsible for reconciling any billed items on their library account by either returning the items or paying the replacement fee. Patrons with an item with a billed status on their library account cannot check out additional physical materials from the library.

Will eliminating overdue fines have any negative impact on Library service through a decrease in revenue?
No. The City’s Board of Supervisors and the Mayor were aware of this minor change in revenue when they approved the Library’s annual budget. Funding for Library service in San Francisco remains strong and no services will be impacted from the elimination of fines.

Are other Libraries Fine Free?
The fine free movement has taken on momentum across the nation. This map from the Urban Libraries Council shows other fine free libraries:

https://www.urbanlibraries.org/member-resources/fine-free-map

How many patrons will regain access to the San Francisco Public Library through the waiving of accumulated overdue fines?
Roughly 106,000 active library user accounts are impacted by overdue fines currently. According to the Long Overdue study, at any time, 35% of patrons owe money because they missed their due date and 5% of accounts are blocked due to unpaid fines.