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Columbus Metropolitan Library Kicks Off a Fine Free 2017

by on January 9, 2017

Columbus Metropolitan Library (CML) in Columbus, Ohio, is fulfilling a common library goal, to provide more access to library resources, in a less-common way—eliminating daily late fees on library materials. “What it boils down to is that we want to make it easier for more customers to check out more materials and not be deterred by overdue fines,” said Ben Zenitsky, marketing and communications specialist at CML.[1]

This new policy is not a huge change for CML, which has been moving in this direction for several years. In 2012, the library reduced its daily fine rates and maximum fines for items. In 2014 they introduced automatic renewal, renewing items for patrons without any effort on the patron’s part up to ten times, unless the items are reserved for other patrons. That same year CML created a kid’s card for patrons under eighteen that allows kids to check out up to five books, fine-free, without a parent’s signature.[2]

“What we’ve been seeing is that the people most impacted by fines are the people who rely on it the most,” including lower-income patrons and children, Zenitsky said. “But the majority of our programs and services are tailored to those people.”[3]

CML follows in the footsteps of other Ohio libraries, including Worthington Libraries and Stark County District Library, in eliminating fines.[4] In 2015, the Columbus Metropolitan Library took in about $370,000 in late fees, which went to the library’s general operating budget. “It’s certainly money lost, but not money we rely on,” Zenitsky said. “Getting materials into the hands of our customers is more important”. [5]

Although daily late fines will be eliminated, patrons will still have to pay for lost and damaged items and cards will be blocked for those who have items more than three weeks overdue. Patrons with blocked cards will still be able to access digital library materials and use library computers and services.[6]  Existing overdue fines will remain on patron cards, but library staff will be “empowered and encouraged to use good judgement to waive existing fines,” according to a library press release.[7]

The impact of this policy on the CML has yet to be seen, but the library has its goals in place. “We’re looking for fewer blocked cards, fewer customers fearful of overdue fines, and more customers empowered to come to the library and check out materials,” Zenitsky said.[8]


[1] Ben Zenitsky, Marketing and Communications Specialist at the Columbus Metropolitan Library, in a phone interview with the author, December 9, 2016.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4]Columbus libraries to eliminate overdue book fines,” NBC4i.com, December 1, 2016.

[5] Ben Zenitsky, December 9, 2016.

[6]Columbus libraries to eliminate overdue book fines.”

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ben Zenitsky, December 9, 2016.

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