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Dallas Library adopts new policy with no fines for late returns

Dallas Library adopts new policy with no fines for late returns

Dallas Public Library Erik Jonsson
Dallas Public Library in downtown. Courtesy photo

No more late fees at the library. The Dallas City Council voted on May 22 to eliminate the long-standing practice of issuing a fine when an item is returned late. Fees for replacing lost library cards and looking up account numbers were also eliminated.

Jo Giudice, director of libraries sought the change to bring back customers who have not been able to access library services because of excessive fines. “The library’s mission is to provide access for all,” said Giudice. “Late fines create barriers by punishing people who are unable to pay them. Eliminating fines is a step towards equity.”

Beginning immediately, late fines will no longer be assessed. The library is working with its vendor to zero-out existing balances, a process likely to take several weeks. In the meantime, card holders visiting the library can request to have their accounts cleared of fines for returned materials.

“I know there are people out there holding on to material because they know it’s long overdue,” said Giudice. “We want the customers and the books to come back. All is forgiven.”

Under the fine-free rules, when an item is a week overdue, the account will be blocked from further checkouts until the overdue items are returned. The replacement cost of the book plus a processing fee will be charged to the account. These charges will be waived as soon as the book is returned.

For customers who have lost items on their accounts and cannot pay the replacement cost, special events twice a year will give them an opportunity to “work off” the fees by volunteering or participating in other community activities.

Dallas is joining a movement among libraries nationwide to eliminate charging fines, including Denver Public Library, San Diego Public Library and Salt Lake City Public Library. Library systems in nearby cities, including Irving and Plano, also have no-fine policies. 

A library card is free for any Dallas resident. For information on the many free programs and services available at Dallas Public Library, visit www.dallaslibrary.org  

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