Jacksonville Public Library Waives Overdue Fines and Goes Fine Free for 2020
Mayor, City Council and Board of Library Trustees Activate COVID Relief for Library Customers
UPDATE: The Board of Library Trustees extended the overdue fine free period until April 30, 2021.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla., July 9, 2020 – Overdue fines are barriers, often penalizing the most vulnerable families and individuals. An estimated 36% of the 118,000 households with blocked Jacksonville Public Library cards for overdue fines are households with children and at least 5,000 of the families in those households are living below the poverty line. Throughout the country more than 100 libraries have eliminated fines for overdue materials, and have seen increases in library users, increases in circulation of materials, and decreases in lost materials.
Jacksonville Public Library customers can thank Mayor Lenny Curry, Jacksonville City Council and the Board of Library Trustees for eliminating all outstanding overdue fines and making the library overdue fine free through at least December 31, 2020. This action was initiated by the mayor as part of the $159M local stimulus bill unanimously approved by City Council (Ordinance 2020-235) and signed on April 28, 2020. Among other results, the legislation eliminated overdue fines retroactive to March 2019. Recognizing that no cardholder should be discouraged or barred from using the library during these difficult financial times, the Board of Library Trustees at a special meeting on May 21, 2020 expanded the fine waiver to include all uncollected overdue fines for materials returned on or before December 31, 2020.
Jacksonville Public Library uses money collected from overdue fines to fund valuable capital projects—including the upcoming renovation of children's departments at Webb Wesconnett Regional Library and Highlands Regional Library. However, the Library estimated due to the age of many of the fines, it was unlikely it would collect as much as 10% of the outstanding $2.6M. The Board felt the immediate benefits of enabling more than 100,000 households to again access the tax-supported library resources outweighs the potential future applications of those fines. This is especially true in light of the economic impact to the community of COVID-19.
"In many cases, someone who has an overdue fine on their account will avoid using the library, even though they may really need it to support their child’s education, improve their chances of job or small business success or to learn something new that makes their life better," says Library Director Tim Rogers. "The library needs to be as easy to use as possible, especially now that so many people experience hard times. This just makes sense."
A common question is: how will you make sure people return things? Overdue fine free doesn't waive responsibility. The Library is still a place where people share access to a collection of more than 2 million items. Borrowing will still have due dates and renewal limits as always to keep things circulating. Items will be considered lost after the final due date. The library will use a recovery processes to retrieve lost materials or their replacement cost, which may include fees associated with the recovery.
At this time no decisions have been made about remaining fine-free beyond 2020. The Board of Library Trustees views the next six months as a trial period. The Board and Library hope customers will take advantage of this period of overdue fine freedom, return any long-overdue materials to their nearest library location, and start enjoying the library once again.
To read answers to frequently asked questions about going overdue fine free, curbside pickup, in-branch services and more, visit Reopening FAQs.