Letter from the Executive Director

I am delighted to share that our Board of Trustees has voted to permanently remove late fines. On May 9, we will stop charging late fines and clear all current late fines from accounts. This data-driven change supports our values by increasing equitable access to libraries. Last fall, the Board of Trustees requested an analysis on the impact of fines. Over the course of six months, we gathered relevant data and then presented it to the board. Those findings were clear.
The people most impacted are those who already face the greatest challenges. These include individuals with low incomes and limited access to transportation and technology. Late fines only worsen inequity and discourage library use. We hope that removing that barrier will have a profound and positive effect on the people who need us most.
We know this will be welcome news for many members of our community. Advocates have regularly spoken at board meetings and shared feedback on social media. Your voices have been heard. I want to offer these additional assurances. Our analysis included a careful review of financial and operational impacts. We take our responsibility as stewards of public funds seriously. We take pride in our award-winning, balanced budget. The new policy approved by the board is fiscally sound.
Late fines generated little revenue, making up less than one percent of our budget. The amount collected has continued to decline over recent years. This is in part due to shifting behavior and preferences. Each year, more patrons discover our digital collections. Digital titles return automatically and do not accrue late fines. The increased use strongly correlates with declining late fines collected. 
We are happy patrons find digital collections a convenient option. However, we want to encourage them to enjoy our physical items and spaces too. Eliminating late fines helps us remove barriers to access and welcome patrons back. In going fines-free, we will join a majority of peer libraries across the nation that have taken this step. We are grateful to learn from their experiences. A meta-analysis of research showed that eliminating fines doesn't negatively impact collection availability. On the contrary, fines-free libraries often see higher rates of returns. Even if that were not the case, our goal isn't to get books back, it's to get readers back.
When late fines become a thing of the past, libraries can become a bigger part of everyone's future. We hope you will join us in celebrating this change by visiting libraries. Browse our collections. Attend events. Explore everything your library has to offer. Should you have any comments, questions, or concerns, we welcome your feedback.
Lisa G. Rosenblum