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Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Fort Worth Library: All is forgiven as overdue fines disappear

Seinfeld fans will recall the episode in which Jerry had a book that was a couple decades or more overdue and the library detective hounded him.

While that was a hilarious episode, that will never happen in Fort Worth. As of today, Oct. 1, overdue fines are a thing of the past at the Fort Worth Public Library. The Library will no longer charge overdue fines going forward, and if you have an existing overdue fine, it’s forgiven.

The change will help an estimated 18,000 cardholders with blocked accounts freedom to return to libraries without any feeling of shame or frustration. Going fine-free allows the library system to engage more customers by reducing barriers to access.

“We don’t want there to be any obstacles to residents enjoying their Library,” said Fort Worth Public Library Director Manya Shorr. “Removing the burden of overdue fines is just one step in helping ensure everyone feels free to return to the Library.”

Overdue materials are also free to be returned without penalty. This decision is following other large, metropolitan systems, such as Denver, New Orleans and San Francisco, that have gone fine-free and continue to see more items returned to their libraries.

“We want to be good stewards of city resources and materials,” Shorr said. “If our guests are returning their items in good condition for someone else to check out, we shouldn’t penalize them or make them feel unwelcome.”

Previously, Library cardholders’ accounts were blocked when cardholders owed at least $5 in overdue fines and replacement fees. Now that threshold has risen to $50. If an item is not returned after 90 days of notices, it will be designated as “lost” and cardholders will be charged a replacement fee. This is also true if an item is returned in damaged condition.

Youth accounts (ages 17 and younger) that reach the $50 level may be paid, or the child may volunteer or commit to reading a certain number of hours to pay off their fees. Library staff members are available at all locations to explain the read-off program to interested families. Find information at FortWorthLibrary.org/FineFree .

“Fines really don’t bring books back. I think what fines do is they keep people out of the Library,” Library Advisory Board member Phyllis Grissom said. “They prevent them from checking out books, and they prevent them from going to the Library and seeing the other services that are offered there.”

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