Boston Public Library Eliminates All Youth Card Fines

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Wanting to remove barriers and access to the Boston Public Library system, the BPL Board of Trustees unanimously voted to eliminate overdue fines for all youth younger than 18.

“We are proud to be joining the ranks of libraries across the country who are moving towards being fine-free,” said BPL President David Leonard via press release. “Too often, fines penalize those least able to afford them and have the unintended effect of turning young people, in particular, away from their libraries. That’s just not what ‘Free To All’ should mean in the 21st century. Eliminating youth fines reflects core values of the BPL -- to be accessible, to be welcoming, and to ensure we are promoting youth reading, not preventing it.”

The BPL joins a growing number of public libraries, albeit only five percent of public libraries according to a Library Journey survey, that do not charge late fines for youth.

The new policy begins Nov. 1.

Before the policy the maximum overdue fine a youth cardholder could be charged was $2.50 per book. In Fiscal Year '19, the BPL collected $24,069 in overdue fines from youth under 18, representing less than 10 percent of the total of $249,179 in total fines, according to a press release. And incredibly, 90 percent of cardholders younger than 19 are facing fines -- and there are more than 150,000 youths with library cards.

“The accrual of fines puts a barrier between youth and the Library that can prevent future use of its materials, programming, and resources,” said Mayor Marty Walsh via press release. “In Boston, we believe that free and open access to the Library is crucial for children’s literacy and education. Going ‘fine free’ is a step to level the playing field and become closer to ensuring that everyone has access to the important resources the Library provides.”