Amnesty Ever After

Philadelphia’s Free Library goes fine-free in 2020.

This Valentine’s day, we all got a great gift from our vast and historic Free Library: forgiveness for all our overdue fines, and an end to overdue charges altogether. A Feb 14th press release welcomed back nearly 88,000 cardholders who had been flagged for non-payment and blocked from full library services.

The move comes after the Library’s Board of Trustees voted in December to go fine-free, after nearly two years of study that determined fines have “no significant impact” on the return rate of checked out materials. Furthermore, lifting fines allows thousands more Philadelphians to take advantage of library resources.

Instead of fees, late materials will trigger automatic reminders for patrons to return borrowed items. After 30 days, materials will be considered “lost” and customers will need to return/replace them before checking anything else out (they’ll still be able to access digital items, participate in programming and enjoy in-person library services).

Library branches City-wide are anticipating a bump in circulation and library card signups, plus more traffic in general as patrons adapt to the new policy.

“It’s going to be a positive change in many ways,” said Siobhan A. Reardon, the Library’s president and director, “I’m so proud that we’ll be one of the largest library systems in the country to eliminate this penalty.”

Book lovers and procrastinators rejoice!

Falls of Schuylkill branch: 3501 Midvale Ave (215) 685-2093
Joseph E. Coleman Northwest Regional branch: 58 West Chelten Avenue (215) 685-2150

COVID CAUTION: Please note, Philadelphia library branches remain CLOSED INDEFINITELY under current “shelter in place” restrictions for the City and surrounding counties. 


KellyAnne P.  I love this. Blocking access for lost materials is much more sensible than racking up overdue fees. God forbid you are elderly or disabled and have a hard time getting back to the library in time!

 Sheryl B.  This will likely cost much less to administer in the long run. Kudos.

 Antonio D.   I feel that being a fine free library is not the way to go because now there will not be any kind of responsibilities for the patrons.

Mike M.  Now I can borrow DVD’s and even a guitar and keep it for months. Great! And to the people waiting behind me? Oh well. Say thanks to your mayor.

Free Library of Philadelphia  Thanks for your feedback. Because customers still need to return materials in order to check out other materials, the incentive to bring back items remains! More importantly, eliminating overdue fines supports greater equity and inclusion across all our constituencies. We hope you’ll come visit us at the Fine-Free Library soon!

Peggy D.  Nonsense! You are enabling people to be irresponsible. The library pandering to the liberal agenda again. Why I stopped donating.

Kitty J   It is not the library’s job to keep or teach people to be responsible 🤷🏻‍♀️

Peggy D   This is symptomatic of what is happening in our country today. Everything becomes free and when something bad happens, it’s somebody else’s fault.

Briana M.  But it’s literally called the Free Library. <smh>

Bill G. A good idea. For most the fines are more an inconvenience than a true incentive to return the books. The loss of one’s ability to check out books is far more punitive. This puts all patrons on a level playing field with no real cost. If the return rate drops too much, it’s no big deal to reinstitute fines.

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