Philadelphia’s public library system, the Free Library of Philadelphia, has officially stopped charging overdue fines as of Feb. 14, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Prior to this decision, the library system charged 25 cents per day for each overdue book, the Inquirer reported, and library cardholders had their privileges restricted after reaching $5 in total fees. The library system also decided to eliminate any current outstanding fees, which is expected to bring back the 88,000 library patrons who could not check out new items because of unpaid fines, according to the Inquirer.
Those who have overdue items will receive reminders to return their books and will not be permitted to check out more items until their overdue items are returned, the Inquirer reported. After 30 days, the items will be considered lost and the patrons will be required to pay for them before they can check out more.
Despite having over 50 branches across Philadelphia – the highest branch per capita among major U.S. cities – Philadelphia public libraries are among the most under-used in the country, but the West Philadelphia branch's managers said the library is well-used in the community. Despite its proximity to Penn’s campus, the West Philadelphia branch is not a hotspot among Penn students.
The decision to eliminate late fines may cost the Free Library of Philadelphia nearly $424,000 in annual revenue, the Inquirer reported. Other city libraries that have implemented a fine-free policy, such as the Chicago Public Library System, saw increases in library visits, library card sign-ups, and book returns. Philadelphia's library board is anticipating similar results for the Philadelphia library system, according to the Inquirer.
The Free Library of Philadelphia is one of the largest library systems in the nation to eliminate overdue fines.
According to the Inquirer, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney backed a resolution to eliminate library fees last fall, calling the fines a "punitive practice."