Fine Fandango

2899343224_336197d9d9_mLibrary Fines. Love ’em or hate ’em. Just read a very interesting article from a university in British Columbia about dismantling their fine system. Often considered a necessary deterrent to make sure library items actually return to the library, this study proved the opposite to be true. Actual checkouts of physical items had been declining for a decade which accompanied a similar decrease in fine revenue. The thought was if the fine system went away, maybe circulation numbers would increase. Replacement charges remained for lost items, but those pesky overdue fines disappeared. The result of their experiment showed no change in circulation numbers of the collection which was disappointing; however, the collection “was not pillaged” and remained in good order. While fine income was eliminated, exceedingly glowing reports of the library’s good will spread among students, faculty and staff.

One of my favorite comments from the paper came from a library staff member:

“It makes the library a less punitive idea, a less restrictive idea, the gate- keeper idea—all that, and that’s really great to see us moving forward.”

Interesting stuff. In all honesty, I currently have $5.50 in overdue fines to my local public library. It is a little niggling thing in the back of my head that I need to take care of, but it is annoying. Yes, the fine system is part of being a member of a larger community, but honestly, the books came back when they did regardless of the fine system.

CIM has a very generous loan policy that extends the entire semester with fines kicking in at that point. Replacement fees are levied for items that do not make their way back.

Still, this nags the question, do overdue fines scare away potential users? Or are they a necessary measure to ensure the continued existence of the collection?


Reed, Kathleen, Jean Blackburn, and Daniel Sifton. “Putting a Sacred Cow Out to Pasture: Assessing the Removal of Fines and Reduction of Barriers at a Small Academic Library.” Journal of Academic Librarianship 40 (2014): 275-280. (you’ll need to be logged onto Case’s network in order to access this OhioLink article)


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