Officials from the Anne Arundel County Public Library (AACPL) announced on March 2 that all system materials are now fine-free. Additionally, the library also waived $361,425 in old fines for customers. More than 28,000 people received the surprise savings.
The announcement, made at an event outside the Brooklyn Park Library, featured County Executive Steuart Pittman, who has pledged any necessary funding to supplement the library’s loss in revenue. Fine revenue has continued to decrease year over year with only $112,827 collected in Fiscal Year 2020 and about half that amount expected this year. The library went fine-free for children’s materials in January 2020.
“Fines are a barrier that disproportionately impact people without the means to pay,” said AACPL CEO Skip Auld. “As a public institution, we have a responsibility to make our items available to as many people as possible. Removing these fines (while still requiring the items to be returned) will allow more people to enjoy our materials for education, enrichment and inspiration.”
Pittman agreed, saying, “While everyone must be held accountable for returning what they borrow, fines are an unnecessary form of punishment that falls disproportionately on lower-income households,” Pittman said. “We have a fantastic library system in this county and we want it to be accessible to everyone.”
William Shorter, chair of the AACPL board of trustees, said public libraries are about leveling the playing field, but fines create obstacles to success.
“As the library moves into its second century of service to the people of Anne Arundel County, the board of trustees is proud to support the elimination of fines for all customers and get back to its foundation of breaking down barriers,” Shorter said.
In addition to the removal of fines on most items, the library has instituted a new auto renewal system where most materials without holds are automatically renewed up to five times. Items waiting to be borrowed by other customers will not be automatically renewed. Materials borrowed from other public library systems in Maryland will be automatically renewed two times. Historic London Town and Gardens Museum passes, seven-day express materials and interlibrary loan items (OCLC orange band) will not be automatically renewed.
Items must be returned to the library in a timely fashion and replacement costs will be charged after 21 days past due. Damaged materials will also be assessed a replacement charge. Library accounts can be referred to collections and an additional fee will be assessed. Items borrowed from other library systems are still subject to late fees.
For more information on the new initiative, visit the library’s website at www.aacpl.net/finesfaq.