In July 2020, the Greensboro Public Library announced that it would no longer charge “fines” for overdue books.

However, that is misleading.  What the library actually did is eliminate the daily “fines” and replace that with a one time “fee.”  It doesn’t really matter what they call it, you still have to pay for a book that is long overdue. 

The press release announcing the elimination of fines makes no mention of people who have overdue books being charged a fee. It states, “The Greensboro Public Library announces that the Board of Trustees has approved a change in policy to eliminate fines for overdue books and materials. The new policy takes effect August 1 and includes forgiveness of outstanding fines.”

There is no mention of a fee for overdue books, no matter how long overdue they are.  According to the Greensboro Public Library website, books can be checked out for 21 days and can be renewed up to three times as long as there are no requests for them from other library customers.

However, it also states, “Materials kept 42 days past the due date will be sent to a third-party collection agency and a $10 processing fee will be assessed.”

In the press release announcing no more library fines, Library Director Brigitte Blanton states, “The American Library Association has determined that the use of fines does not promote responsibility for returning items on time.  Instead we find that the fear of fines makes it less likely that people of limited income will use library services in the first place.  Our goal is to remove unnecessary barriers that impact our most vulnerable customers.”

It would seem that if a “most vulnerable customer” could not pay a daily fine, that person would also have difficulty paying $10 for an overdue book.

To be fair the library, in announcing that it was eliminating daily fines for overdue books, should have informed its patrons that while there is no fine, there is a $10 fee if the book is not returned or renewed.