Fine-free Phoenix Library

According to Phoenix Public Library, the system pulled in around $200,000 a year through late fees.

PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) – The Phoenix City Council on Tuesday gave its stamp of approval to the Phoenix Public Library's idea to end late fees.

The All Fines Forgiven campaign is meant to ensure that everybody feels comfortable taking advantage of everything the Phoenix Public Library has to offer, especially those who need those resources most.

"We have a little over 100,000 library accounts that are currently blocked due to overdue fines," said Phoenix Public Library spokeswoman Lee Franklin told Arizona's Family last week.

[ORIGINAL STORY: Phoenix Public Library could soon be forgiving fines]

[WATCH: No more late fines at the Phoenix Public Library?]

That's around 10% of the roughly 1,037,000 Phoenix Public Library accounts that were active back in August.

Accounts that owe $25 or more are blocked, and Franklin says the library wants to get those people back into the library.

"For some families, any dollar amount in fines means they can't afford to pay that, and so they won't come in," Franklin said.

Starting in November, those fines will no longer be an issue. The Phoenix Public Library will both forgive existing overdue fines and stop charging late fees.

"Libraries offer a path to a changed future," Mayor Kate Gallego tweeted late Tuesday afternoon. "The prospect of a late fee can deter the use of library services. That changed today when [the] council voted unanimously to ensure access is not limited by finances …."

Gallego said the City Council's approval of All Fines Forgiven makes Phoenix the biggest city in the country to have "fine free" public libraries.

Some library visitors expressed concern that without overdue fines, there's not really an incentive to return borrowed items.

"We know from the other library systems that have employed a fine-forgiveness program," Franklin said. "What they have reported is they have seen an increase in library cardholders coming back in but also an increase in the materials that are returned."

The City Council's vote to abolish overdue fines was unanimous.

"I also requested today that city staff look into a rewards program for those who have the good habit of returning their items on time," Councilman Carlos Garcia said in a statement.

The Library will still charge a replacement fee for lost items -- checked out items that are not returned -- but you won't rack up late fines. 

Here's how that will work, according to the Phoenix Public Library's website.

Phoenix Public Library timeline for late items beginning November 2019

First, you'll get a reminder three days before your item is due. If you do not return it by the designated time, you'll receive three overdue notices -- one at three days late, a second at 10 days, and a third at 28 days. 

If you still have not returned the item by the 51st day after the due date, the Phoenix Public Library will send you a bill for the replacement fee. 

According to the Library's website, that replacement fee will be waived if the item is returned after 50 days.

You could also be charged a replacement fee for damaged or destroyed items.

"With over a century of service, Phoenix Public Library continues to reinvent itself, stay responsive and relevant to our communities," librarian Rita Hamilton said in a news alert about the vote. "We continue to look for ways to push the boundaries of what a public library can be and deliver responsive customer service. Ensuring that access to our resources is as equitable as possible, is the ultimate goal of launching our 'All Fines Forgiven' campaign."

There are 17 Phoenix Public Library locations


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