Bye-bye late fines!

Great news, everyone – Mt. Lebanon Public Library is now “Fine Free!” 

What does that mean?

It means that the library no longer charges daily late fines on items that are overdue, and if your home library is Mt. Lebanon, any existing fines lingering on your account have been waived. You may still be charged for lost or damaged materials, printed items, or other fees, but you can turn in that stack of children’s picture books a day or two late without fear of racking up a big bill! 

Who, What, When, Where and Why?

Who: Mt. Lebanon Public Library’s Board of Trustees 

What: Amended the Library’s Lending Policy to eliminate the accrual of late fines on overdue items  

When: June 15, 2021 (though the library in practice stopped accruing late fines on March 15, 2020, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic). 

Where: Mt. Lebanon Public Library, 16 Castle Shannon Blvd., Pittsburgh PA 15228 

Why: Because late fines on overdue materials, while generating a small amount of revenue for the library, prevent users who need it most from taking advantage of this essential public resource. As President John F. Kennedy said, “Public libraries should be open to all – except the censor.”

FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions

Does this policy change mean I can keep my library materials forever? 

No, all library materials will still have a due date, and books that are lost, damaged, or otherwise not returned will be charged just as they are now.   As the due date approaches, the library will notify the patron of the due date and ask that they return it (if the item is not eligible for renewal).  If the item is six weeks overdue, a bill to replace the item will be issued, and if an item is more than six weeks overdue, the account may be referred to a collection agency depending on the registering library. 

Won’t this policy negatively impact the library’s budget? 

Overdue fines generate less than 1% of our annual budget at this point.  We constantly explore other ways of generating income to help supplement our operating budget.  

If patrons are not charged overdue fines will items still be returned in a timely manner? 

Yes, our expectation is that the majority of items checked out will still be returned within a few days of the due date, regardless of an overdue fine.  Other libraries that have made this change have not seen a significant change in the rate of items that are overdue and see around 95% of items returned within one week of the due date. 

Isn’t it the library’s job to teach civic responsibility with overdue fines? 

Mt Lebanon Public Library’s mission is to “provide for all patrons an inclusive, welcoming environment of intellectual enrichment, creativity and enjoyment, and a forum to exchange ideas by providing top-tier programs, materials, services, and community support.”  

We believe this policy change will help us better accomplish our mission to create an inclusive, welcoming environment. Studies have shown that overdue fines create a barrier to access for the library patrons who need our services the most. We want everyone to feel welcome at the library! 

Will the library eliminate previously accrued overdue fines? 

Yes, along with the policy change to cease charging overdue fines on materials, we also granted an amnesty on all overdue fines accrued under the old policy by Mt. Lebanon patrons.  This includes overdue fines on items from other Allegheny County Library Association libraries. 

Will the library change the fee limit at which it block accounts? 

The library blocks account privileges (borrowing, renewal, e-resources, and databases access) if more than $10.00 in fees are owed.

Will materials accrue a daily overdue fine? 

No. Items checked out from Mt. Lebanon Public Library will no longer accrue overdue fines.  Any fines that are assessed while we transition to Fine-Free will be waived. Damaged items, lost items, and items that are not returned after all eligible renewals have been used will generate replacement fees.   

Note:  Materials checked out at other libraries may still have fines. Fine are generated at point of check out. 

Will items from the other ACLA libraries still accrue daily overdue fines? 

Yes, materials from some other libraries will still accrue fines, though about 15 other libraries in the county have also eliminated fines on overdue items.  Fines are generated at point of check out, but we will waive them at the Mt. Lebanon Public Library. 

Will the library give refunds to patrons who paid their overdue fines before this change? 

No, the library does not refund overdue fines previously paid under the old late fee policy.

Will the library continue to participate in Unique Management Collection Agency services? 

Yes, it still gives us an avenue to ensure that all material is returned. 

Will the library continue to collect manual charges from other libraries?   

The library will only collect the Manual Collection Agency charge for other libraries as there are procedures in place for reimbursement.   

What about ILL overdue fines?

ILLs will not have fines if checked out at Mt. Lebanon Public Library – but they are not able to be renewed.  

What is the difference between a fine and a fee? 

Fines: funds owed for overdue items 

Fees:  funds owed for replacement items, collection agency charges, and other manual charges.