Denver Public Library is closing a chapter on fines for overdue books and goodies

Bookworms have all been there: cracking open the spine of a library pick and becoming so engrossed in the plot that you lose track of time for, give or take, several weeks. Then you not only have post-book blues, but you’ve racked up a library fine, too.

The book blues might linger, but the Denver Public Library is closing the chapter on library fines.

Starting Jan.1, Denver Public Library will be eliminating fees for overdue materials to help reduce barriers for low-income patrons. Library administrators are even letting most customers’ existing overdue fines slide to get them back in the door, according to a Wednesday news release from the library. That’s $474,000 owed right now by 85,000 people.

“We know that sometimes life gets in the way of returning materials,” Michelle Jeske, city librarian, said in the news release. “And we don’t want people to stop coming to the library because they’re embarrassed or unable to pay. We want people using our resources and we want items back so that others may borrow them, too.”

In 2017, money collected through fines from Denver Public Library accounted for $110,339 in citywide revenue, the library said.

Fines punish the most vulnerable families and individuals who struggle to pay them back, the Denver library said. The local library system was inspired by places like Salt Lake City who have slashed fines and have reported increased visits and circulation after the change.

Don’t get any wild ideas, though. The library still wants its stuff back.

To enforce returns, customer accounts will be blocked from further checkout when one or more items becomes 14 days overdue. Once returned, patrons can check things out to their heart’s content.

“Customers should make a habit of always returning items on or before the due date. It’s not just the right thing to do, it’s how libraries work,” said Jennifer Hoffman, who manages the library’s Books and Borrowing Department.

Customers can still be charged for replacing lost or damaged items, so still take care when reading in the bathtub.

“Public libraries are all about access, and going fine free is one more way we can increase access to our collections and services,” Jeske said. “Access has a dividend for Denver–we all benefit from a curious and engaged community. Increasing library use and increasing material circulation is a win-win for all.”

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