The Boston Public Library system is joining a growing list of a libraries across the country to permanently eliminate all library fines. Maybe you wouldn't think that late fines generate a lot of money -- but you'd be wrong. In FY19, BPL collected $176,512 in overdue fines from cardholders, which only represented a fraction of the total overdue fine balance on record, according to a press release. Currently, about 42,000 BPL cardholders are facing fines, and thus cannot continue their use of the library system. BPL states that a large portion of the Boston residents facing fines live in neighborhoods which are the most economically challenged parts of the city.
As you might expect, the pandemic has led to a large increase in Boston Public Library e-card signups, and the Black Lives Matter protests led to a huge increase of requests for the most popular anti-racism titles. "During the [Black Lives Matter] protests in June, we saw over a 500% increase in checkouts and holds on the most popular anti-racism titles including White Fragility, So You Want to Talk about Race, Between the World and Me, The New Jim Crow, and more," said Natasha Fee, Senior Public Relations Associate for the Boston Public Library. In the two weeks following the first June protests more than 1,200 BPL patrons requested ebooks of White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo, and How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. And hey, Kendi recently stopped by Jamaica Plain's bookstore Papercuts J.P. when he happened to be walking by the South Street store. "We’ve continued to see a steady interest in these items and have been purchasing additional copies of in demand titles (for kids and adults) to meet the demand," said Fee.
While locals work to establish Doyle's Cafe as a historic landmark, a new online digital gallery debuted displaying the many items that once decorated the walls of the beloved restaurant. The Boston Public Library, Digital Commonwealth, and the Jamaica Plain Historical Society worked together to launch the new online collection. During the November 6th auction of many things, including the memorabilia on the walls, the fixtures, kitchen equipment and more, dozens of Doyle's regulars worked with the BPL to create the online collection. Buyers agreed to loan their items to the BPL, where they were digitized in the library’s on-site digitization lab. “Digitizing the history of Doyle’s was an easy choice for the library,” said Tom Blake, Director of Content Discovery at the Boston Public Library via press release.
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.