PHOENIX — For anyone who has racked up a serious amount of late fees at the Phoenix Public Library, you will soon be able to breathe a sigh of relief. That is because those late fees are going away, for good.
On Wednesday, Phoenix City Council approved the library's "All Fines Forgiven" campaign, which will waive all current fines and late fees for overdue books, DVDs, and CDs at its 17 branches, and actually allows the libraries to stop charging late fees altogether.
Thanks @MayorGallego & PHX City Council, @PhxLibary is excited to announce that the PHX City Council voted to approve the “All Fines Forgiven” campaign. In NOV, we will waive all existing overdue fines & discontinue applying fines to late items. https://t.co/UdimCHE4Y4 pic.twitter.com/OmlGXfZY7n— Phx Public Library (@PhxLibrary) September 10, 2019
However, that does not mean people will be able to check out items and keep them forever.
Under the new policy, which is set to start in November, rented books, DVDs, and CDs will still come with a due date. Instead of charging a fee each day those items are late, the library will issue a reminder three days before an item is due, and then send out overdue notices when an item is three days, 10 days, and 28 days late. (Current late fees are $0.10 and $0.20 per day with maximums of $5 to $10, depending on the item.)
When an item is 51 days late, people will be given a bill with a "replacement fee." But, if you bring that item back to the library, even 50 days late, that replacement fee is waived.
The goal of the campaign, according to the library, is to get more people to sign up for a library card, to bring back people whose accounts were blocked due to unpaid fines, and to "remove barriers to accessing library materials."
Currently, people are blocked from checking out materials from the library when they have at least $25 in fines. At $75, those accounts are sent to a collections agency, according to the library's website.
"Recent studies have shown that those experiencing higher financial uncertainty are disproportionately affected by overdue fines, which often results in borrowing privileges being revoked. Blocking access to reading material goes against the grain of Phoenix Public Library's principle to make library materials and services more accessible to those that need it most," the library wrote to City Council.
The library said of the 1,037,169 library accounts that it maintains, 103,975, or 10 percent, were blocked from checking out materials because they had $25 or more in fines, as of Aug. 20, 2019, according to the City Council document. Those fines reportedly account for $200,000 a year, which is less than one percent of the library's annual budget, the documents stated.
In January, Denver's libraries implemented a similar program.