Phoenix Approves Library Fine Forgiveness Program

Published: Tuesday, September 10, 2019 - 10:02pm
Updated: Wednesday, September 11, 2019 - 11:54am
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Burton Barr Central Library in Phoenix.

Phoenix is now the largest U.S. city to eliminate fines at public libraries. On Tuesday, the City Council unanimously approved the fine forgiveness program.

Phoenix has just over 1 million people with public library cards. About 1 in 10 are unable to check out materials because they owe at least $25 in fines.

“Blocking access to reading material goes against the library’s principle goal to make library materials and services more accessible to those that need it most,” Rita Hamilton, city librarian, told the council.

She said the percentage of blocked accounts are higher in areas with more lower-income households. Hamilton told the council industry research shows fines have no impact on materials being returned.

“In fact, what has been noted is the opposite,” she said. “Overwhelmingly, library systems that have implemented fine free programs have seen both an increase in the return of materials and more importantly, an increase in customers returning to the library when a fine forgiveness program is implemented.”

The program, expected to begin in November, will waive all existing fines. Customers will not be able to keep items indefinitely. People who keep items more than 50 days will receive bills to cover replacement costs.

Last year, Burton Barr Central Library and 16 branches collected about $200,000 in fines. As a result of implementing a fine forgiveness program, Phoenix Public Library says it will receive an additional $170,000 in FY 2019-20 through an intergovernmental agreement with Maricopa County Library Division. In May, Maricopa County Board of Supervisors announced fines would be waived and eliminated at the county’s 18 public libraries. Ending library fines has become part of a growing national movement.

To talk about this policy change, The Show spoke with city librarian Rita Hamilton.

Here's a breakdown of Phoenix library locations with percentages of blocked accounts due to overdue fines:

  • Acacia Library (750 E. Townley Ave.) — 12%
  • Agave Library (23550 N. 36th Ave.) — 5%
  • Burton Barr Central Library (1221 N. Central Ave.) — 12%
  • Century Library (1750 E. Highland Ave.) — 8%

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Agenda Date: 9/10/2019, Item No. 1b

  • Cesar Chavez Library (3635 W. Baseline Road) — 11%
  • Cholla Library (10050 Metro Parkway E.) — 12%
  • Desert Broom Library (29710 N. Cave Creek Road) — 3%
  • Desert Sage Library (7602 W. Encanto Blvd.) — 11%
  • Harmon Library (1325 S. 5th Ave.) — 15%
  • Ironwood Library (4333 E. Chandler Blvd.) — 5%
  • Juniper Library (1825 W. Union Hills Drive) — 9%
  • Mesquite Library (4525 E. Paradise Village Parkway N.) — 5%
  • Ocotillo Library (102 W. Southern Ave.) — 14%
  • Palo Verde Library (4402 N. 51st Ave.) — 14%
  • Saguaro Library (2808 N. 46th St.) — 10%
  • South Mountain Community Library (7050 S. 24th St.) — 9%
  • Yucca Library (5648 N. 15th Ave.) — 13%

Source: Phoenix Public Library


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