LUBBOCK, Texas — With libraries nationwide going fine free, and 60% of Texas libraries eliminating them, Lubbock’s director of library services, Stacy McKenzie wanted in on the trend.
“People are having tough times, people are having trouble giving up $5, $10, $15 to pay library fines, and public libraries are about access,” McKenzie said.
In January 2019, the American Library Association passed a resolution that said library fines are a barrier to equal access and urged libraries to eliminate them.
Earlier this month, she presented extensive data to the city council on why fines should go away, and her pitch was successful.
“When our budget was voted in officially by the council is when that was made official,” McKenzie said. “We were able to say ‘yes, we did it, we’re going fine free.’”
Currently, fines are $0.25 a day per item, and those with over $9 in late fees cannot check out anything else. Thanks to McKenzie’s effort, that policy will be gone.
“That accumulates very quickly, especially if you try to get five or six books, and maybe you’re just a day late, you’ve already got several dollars on your account,” McKenzie said. “We won’t be nickel and diming people anymore.”
Starting Oct. 1, library patrons will no longer receive overdue fines for books, audiobooks, and magazines. Additionaly, any existing overdue fines for these same items will also be cleared from accounts. Library cardholders are still responsible for lost and damaged charges, and they will still receive overdue fines for other items like DVDs and technology devices.
Sims is a regular at the city’s libraries who typically checks out five books at a time. He thinks eliminating late fines is beneficial and won’t have a negative effect on how much money the library makes.
“I don’t think late fees contribute very significantly to the income of this place,” Sims said.
McKenzie confirmed Sims’ statement. She said the financial impact is small as overdue fines only account for a small portion of the library’s revenue.
Sims believes getting rid of those fines will also lead to more kids reading.
“If it can make it convenient for people with children, I’m all for it,” Sims said.
The library recently started automatic renewals. If you check out a book, an audiobook or a magazine (bestsellers not included), it’ll renew twice before officially being overdue. That will still apply, even once the library officially goes fine free.
“I can’t wait for people to just fill up our libraries and be able to use all the books that are coming back that we don’t have to purchase,” McKenzie said. “There are just so many advantages to this happening.”