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No more fines at Prince William libraries

Prince William Public Libraries (PWPL) no longer charge fines for items returning after the due date. The new policy took effect yesterday, July 1.

Removing late fees will have a positive impact on those who enjoy PWPL services, resources, and materials, based on data and statistics throughout the U.S, and through stories from the community, according to a library news release.

Deborah Wright, PWPL director, was quoted in the news release as saying, “By removing overdue fines, other libraries throughout the country have noticed that patrons are returning their overdue items at an increased rate and more patrons are reengaging with their libraries.”

According to the Urban Libraries Council and American Library Association, data and experiences from other libraries has proven that removing late fees removes unfair economic barriers to library access for youth and patrons from disadvantaged backgrounds.  A common, related driver is increasing engagement with the library and inviting users back who had been shut out because of fines.

In recent years, PWPL has increased its focus on removing barriers to better serve the community.  Fines typically most affect those with limited resources and deter them from checking materials out from the libraries. PWPL continues to make strides in addressing its strategic goals outlined in its 2019 –2021 Strategic Plan. 

Removing fines directly addresses the library’s commitment to removing barriers to access to both print and digital materials. During the COVID-19 pandemic, PWPL suspended fines from March through November 2020.  After looking at data, leadership did not reinstate fines for children and teens after November 2020 as the benefits far outweighed the small amount of revenue received from late fees.

“Our vision of being the hub connecting people to the transforming power of information is becoming a reality by taking steps like removing fines, offering mobile Wi-Fi hotspots for patrons to have internet access in their homes, and increasing both our physical and online collections,” said Wright.  The county;s 12 libraries “want to continue to be a welcoming, inclusive environment and we can only do so by making changes that better our patrons’ experiences,” the Library Director went on to say.

PWPL joins more than 280 library systems across the country that have gone completely fine-free. Patrons will still be responsible for paying for lost or damaged items, but staff will work with patrons to clear old fees from their accounts after they return past-due items at any of PWPL’s 12 libraries.

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