Starting this November, the Phoenix Public Library will no longer charge fines for past due books and will forgive residents with existing overdue fines.
Instead, once a book is 50 days past due, the library will consider the book lost and charge customers a replacement fee, though that cost will be waived if the book is returned.
The policy was made official after a unanimous city council vote last week.
The Phoenix system currently charges 20 cents per overdue item per day, which can quickly accumulate and become an unaffordable expense for some families.
Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego (D) addressed the consequences of such fines after the vote. “We know that for some residents, the prospect of a late fee can act as a deterrence to using library services in the first place,” Gallego said. “That changed today when our council voted unanimously to ensure access to libraries is not limited by finances.”
The policy will affect over 100,000 accounts which are currently blocked due to accrued fines over $25, according to the Phoenix Public Library’s website.
When it implements its ‘All Fines Forgiven’ program in November, Phoenix will join a growing number of libraries in adopting a fine-free program and will become the largest city in the nation to do so.
The shift represents a trend by libraries across the country to eliminate fines and has been supported by the American Library Association, which called overdue fines “a form of social inequality.”
The city hopes that more people, particularly children, will use its libraries now that the fear of fines are a thing of the past.
Phoenix library spokesman Lee Franklin said there will be little impact on the library’s budget, as less than 1% of its annual budget comes from overdue fine collection. This loss will be offset with extra funding from the Maricopa County Library District, according to the Phoenix Public Library’s website.
While the Phoenix Public Library has not set an exact date its new policy will go into effect, once it does, it will join all other libraries in Maricopa County, Cocino County and Flagstaff in eliminating late penalties.