JCPL’s Future is Fine-Free

Starting July 1, 2022, Jessamine County Public Library will join libraries across the country in eliminating overdue fines. No longer will fines be assessed on items that are returned past their due date.

JCPL customers with outstanding overdue fines can expect a clean slate; in addition to stopping the collection of those fines, current balances will be forgiven on July 1.

Libraries have long assessed fines on overdue materials as an accountability measure to ensure that items are returned in a timely manner. Why are so many libraries, including JCPL, changing their policies?

It’s about our community.

“Fines create barriers and often keep customers from the information they need,” said Charlotte Blakeman, Customer Access Librarian.

Eliminating overdue fines removes a potential barrier to accessing the library’s collections and services, allowing customers from all walks of life to use JCPL without monetary risk. It also paints a more welcoming picture of today’s public library.

“The public library is an essential community asset tasked with meeting the information needs of all persons in the community,” said Ron Critchfield, Executive Director. “By becoming a fine-free library, JCPL will welcome back customers, gain new customers, as well as realign staff time towards meeting this mission moving forward.”

Data shows that public libraries that end collection of overdue fines often see an increase in the return rate of overdue items: overdue materials come back to the library sooner and, without a bill or apology to pay, so do their borrowers.

Jessamine County Public Library cares about its customers and wants them to feel comfortable and confident when borrowing materials. There’s no doubt, the library wants items to be returned! But, more importantly, JCPL wants to see customers return.

So, if you have that book, DVD, or any other library item from years ago that just never got returned, you can now rest easy and bring it back to JCPL with no worries.

It’s about access.

JCPL has already made strides toward increasing customer access and reducing the impact of fine policies. Multiple times a year, JCPL offers customers opportunities to “read off their fines” and “can their fines,” with overdue fines forgiven in exchange for time spent reading inside the library and canned food donations, respectively.

In the summer of 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, JCPL forgave all overdue fines. A few months later, JCPL introduced autorenewals allowing customers to keep items for additional loan cycles—if there are no holds on the item—without taking any action. This was closely followed by the implementation of a 7-day grace period, meaning no fines are assessed for the first 7 days an item is overdue.

All three of these initiatives served to ease the burden on customers already stressed by the global pandemic, allowing customers to take advantage of the library’s resources when many needed them most. Without fear of overdue fines compounded by lack of transportation or sudden illness, customers could borrow a Chromebook or Wi-Fi hot spot to use at home and browse the eLibrary of digital resources.

Library officials cite these steps as the first steps toward JCPL becoming a fine-free library.

What’s next?

JCPL’s new policies regarding overdue fines go into effect July 1, 2022. At that time, customers can expect to see any outstanding balances forgiven. If you notice overdue fines on your account after July 1, please speak to a staff member at the library’s main location or give us a call at (859) 885-3523.

JCPL customers should return borrowed materials in a timely fashion and will continue to receive due date reminders and overdue notices from the library, though overdue fines will not be assessed. Customers are still responsible for lost items.

If you have questions about what this new policy means for library customers, visit www.jesspublib.org/fine-free-faq.