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December 12, 2019

Free Library of Philadelphia eliminates late fees for overdue books

Free Library of Philadelphia Fees
Free Library eliminates late fees Thom Carroll/for PhillyVoice

The Free Library of Philadelphia's board of trustees has voted to approve a new policy that will eliminate most overdue fees.

The Free Library of Philadelphia is saying goodbye to overdue book fees, following in the footsteps of several major cities, including Chicago and Miami. 

The measure was approved by the library's board of trustees in a vote on Wednesday. While the new policy would eliminate most overdue fees, don't expect it to happen right away. The new policy will take some time to roll out. The library still needs to train staff and other "logistical and technical implementation" needs to be completed first, according to the library's release.

Under the new policy, the library will not charge fines for most overdue items, but there will be fees for any items that are lost or destroyed. The fee is only the cost of the item itself. The library will also accept any new or gently used copies of lost or destroyed material as replacement in lieu of payment. 

"We are delighted to be able to join many libraries across the country in removing overdue materials fines as a barrier for customers," said Board of Trustees Chair Pamela Dembe in a statement. "We look forward to welcoming back many customers and long-missing materials in the near future."

Councilwoman Cherelle Parker proposed a resolution in October to eliminate overdue book fees, citing that the fees limit low-income residents access to literacy and education. Mayor Jim Kenney came out in support of the measure in November, calling on the board to make the change.

Currently the library imposes a fine of 25 cents per day for overdue materials. The fines max out at $10 for most items, except paperback books and periodicals, which are subject to a $5 max penalty. If a library cardholder accumulates fines of $5 or more, the person is not allowed to borrow anything else until the fines are paid. 

The Free Library collects $400,000 annually in late fees, which account for less than 1% of the system's annual budget of $47.9 million.

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