The Greensboro Public Library has announced that beginning August 1 it will no longer charge fines for overdue books.

The no-more-fines policy includes forgiveness for outstanding fines, so if you have any overdue library books you definitely want to return them after August 1.

In a press release, Library Director Brigitte Blanton said, “The American Library Association has determined that the use of fines does not promote responsibility for returning items on time. Instead we find that 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.”

Blanton added, “Overdue fines are widely recognized as a form of social inequity and that doesn’t make sense for an institution with a mission to provide free and equal access to information. This move is also in step with initiatives from City Council and City Manager’s Office to help resolve historical inequities.”

With no fines for overdue books, library customers will not be excluded from using computers due to outstanding fines. But, according to the library, customers will still be responsible for lost or damaged materials.

It seems unlikely that someone would return damaged materials and pay for the damage if they can keep those materials for as long as they want without paying any fine. It is also hard to believe that most people would admit to losing a book, which they then have to pay for, if they can keep looking for the book indefinitely without paying a fine.

If fines don’t result in people returning library books on time, it seems one could logically assume that eliminating parking fines would not result in any additional illegal parking. At the beginning of the coronavirus shutdown, without much notice, the city stopped writing tickets for expired meters. The city also has not restarted the program of writing tickets for expired meters, which means there should be a couple of months of data on how not writing tickets for expired meters has affected parking in the downtown area.

Some cities that have removed parking meters have found that financially it was a wash. When these cities did an analysis of the full cost of the program – such as buying meters, repairing meters and collecting the money from meters – compared to the revenue that the program produced, it was found that the parking meter program did not produce a significant profit.

It also seems that if the fear of library fines discourages people from using the library, the fear of parking tickets would discourage people from coming to downtown Greensboro.