Albert Lea Public Library Considers Eliminating Late Fines

(ABC 6 News) – To increase access to library materials, the Albert Lea Public Library proposes City Council eliminate late fines on adult materials.

In May 2022, the city’s Library Advisory Board unanimously decided to stop imposing late fees on youth materials to make its resources more accessible. Youth materials became late-fee-free in June 2022.

Late fines make up less than 1% of the library’s operating budget, or $5,000 per year.

After eliminating the youth late fines, the library saw a 14% increase in overall circulation and an additional 300 student applying for library cards.

The library has found that in fine-free libraries, patrons will still return materials with no impact on return rates.

Fees for lost or damaged materials would still apply, and library patrons would lose their check-out privileges until they return late items or pay outstanding fees.

“Eliminating fines on all materials will provide equitable access to information. Studies show that late fines disproportionally affect individuals in low-income households. There is no evidence that small fines have any impact on return rates,” said Library Director Annice Sevett. “With less staff time spent on enforcing fines, we can spend more time on positive interactions with patrons.”

Albert Lea city council is scheduled to discuss the proposal on Monday Sept. 25.