Readers, rejoice! Starting today, the San Francisco Public Library has eliminated overdue fines for all library patrons.
If you have existing overdue fines (guilty as charged), these are now cleared. And moving forward, any overdue materials eligible for renewal will be automatically renewed for you (up to three times, per library policy).
According to the SFPL’s announcement, “the fine free movement has taken on momentum across the nation.” Berkeley Public Library and San Diego Public Library eliminated overdue fines for all patrons in 2018, and Contra Costa County Library, San Mateo County Library and Marin County Library followed suit earlier this year. The SFPL is actually expanding on an existing policy, adopted in 1974, that eliminated fines for children and teen accounts.
A study undertaken by the SFPL and the San Francisco Financial Justice Project of the Treasurer’s Office, published in January 2019, found that “overdue fines restrict access and exacerbate inequality by disproportionately affecting low-income and racial-minority communities, create conflict between patrons and the library, require an inefficient use of staff time, and do not consistently ensure borrowed materials end up back on library shelves.”
In short, overdue fines hindered the library’s ability to serve those who would benefit most from it, contradicting the SFPL’s mission of providing its patrons free and equal access to information.