The Cincinnati Public Library Is Going Fine Free Through July 2021

As the pandemic continues, the library is extending its fine free service through July 2021.

The Main Branch of the Cincinnati Public Library - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
The Main Branch of the Cincinnati Public Library

At the start of the COVID pandemic and stay-at-home orders, the Cincinnati Public Library stopped collecting fines on overdue borrowed items.

And as the pandemic continues, this service has been now been extended through July 2021.

In a blog post over the summer, when the library declared they were going fine-free through the remainder of 2020, they wrote:

"Overdue fines prevent some people from checking out books and other materials, or even from visiting the library, which undermines the library’s overall mission of connecting people to the world of ideas and information. Studies have shown that fines can disproportionately impact low-income families, driving away the people who stand to benefit greatly from free library resources." 

And during their December board meeting, the library decided it would continue to go fine-free through July. (This doesn't include lost or damaged items, or items that are more than 45 days overdue.)

"The ongoing pandemic means the Library is not yet in a position to objectively analyze the impact of operating in this new environment. In order to gather additional information, and in light of the overwhelmingly positive response this action has received from our customers, we recommend that we extend the changes enacted in June 2020 until at least July 2021, at which point we hope to have more robust data and more customer behavior, including return rate of materials to assess and evaluate," the said.

So will the library go fine-free forever? 

That remains to be seen.

In their summer post, they hinted at the benefits other libraries have seen by eliminating fines:

"Libraries that have already gone fine-free have reported positive results. Chicago Public Library saw a 240% increase in return of materials within three weeks of implementing its fine-free policy last year, and also had 400 more library card renewals compared with that time the previous year.

For several years many public libraries, including several in Ohio and Northern Kentucky, have been eliminating fines for overdue materials. At the end of the year, the Library will evaluate the impact of no overdue fines in 2020 and determine whether to make fine-free a permanent practice. Becoming a fine-free library may be a logical next step, as we implemented automatic renewals in 2019, which has helped customers avoid fines. Additionally, the increasing use of eBooks and audiobooks has led to fewer overdue fines, because these materials are automatically removed from a customer’s device on the set due date."

The library has seen a 16% uptick in digital circulation in 2020.

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