All Overdue Library Book Fines Are Forgiven in San Francisco!
“All outstanding overdue fines will be cleared from all patron records. No exceptions, no questions. You are fabulously fine free.” – SF Public Library
Somewhere in San Francisco there is a bibliophile shouting in ecstasy and popping a Champagne bottle, before quickly being shushed by a librarian, because they no longer have to be scared of overdue library fines or embarrassed to visit the library because of outstanding fines, as of September 16, 2019, San Francisco Public Library has eliminated overdue fines for all Library patrons.
Remember that copy Superfudge that you checked out in 1992 and kept for 2 years for some reason? FORGIVEN! You should still be slightly embarrassed by that, but as long as you do not damage books or NEVER return them, there are no late fees going forward.
“Any items checked out starting today that are eligible for renewal will be automatically renewed for you. For more information on the auto-renewal process, visit sfpl.org/autorenew.”
Why did the Library decide to eliminate overdue fines?
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The San Francisco Public Library was a pioneer in the fine free library movement. SFPL eliminated fines for children and teens in 1974. In recent years, inspired by other library systems that had eliminated fines for overdue materials for patrons of all ages, the Library partnered with the San Francisco Financial Justice Project of the Treasurer’s Office to study whether SFPL should go fine-free. The full report on the findings (PDF) of this study.
The study found that the elimination of overdue fines in libraries had several positive outcomes:
- Increased patron access to materials and services
- Reduction of the inequitable impact of overdue fines
- Improved patron relationships with their library
- Optimization of library staff time and increased staff efficiency
Additionally, research shows overdue fines do not ensure borrowed materials end up back on shelves.
Are other Libraries Fine Free?
The fine free movement has taken on momentum across the nation. The Urban Libraries Council map shows other fine free libraries.
What if I misplaced a book and can’t return it? Did the San Francisco Public Library eliminate replacement fees?
While the Library eliminated overdue fines, Library users are still responsible for fees associated with the replacement of lost or damaged books and other materials they check out.
Under this new policy, it is important to understand the difference between overdue fines and billed-item fees. Overdue fines are the daily charges applied to items not returned by their specified due date. These are the fines that will no longer be charged to patrons. Billed-item fees, or just fees, represent the charges applied for lost, damaged, or unreturned materials and are still in effect.
San Francisco Public Library, even more fabulous than before. From all of us here at the Library, we thank you for your continued patronage and support.