The Avon Free Library is lowering barriers to access by no longer charging overdue fines for any borrowed materials. The library originally eliminated fines on all books in 2022, and has now extended the fine-free policy to DVDs, Blu-Ray videos, park passes, and museum passes. Research conducted by the American Library Association has determined that monetary penalties, no matter how small, create very real burdens to low-income individuals, children, and families. Grace Frenzel, director of the Avon Free Library, deems equal access to library materials as essential. “As library professionals, we are here to provide resources and services to the community equitably irrespective of socioeconomic status. We therefore have a critical responsibility to identify and eliminate barriers to access wherever possible.”
In addition to not accruing fines for overdue library materials, all current outstanding late fees on accounts will be expunged. Materials borrowed from the library will still have set due dates when they need to be returned, and fees will still be incurred for lost or damaged items. Studies of libraries that have eliminated fines have shown that there has been no impact on return dates; in fact, it often causes long overdue books to be returned. Libraries that have adopted fine-free policies have found that:
- Library card registrations increased
- Borrowing of materials increased
- More library items were returned
- Students returned to the library to use homework resources
- Staff time was redirected from fine-handling to patron-focused service
The change to a fine-free model is one of many initiatives of the Avon Free Library to ensure that library services are accessible to the full community. Other measures include Books to Go, a bulk lending program to agencies serving or housing older adults; Books by Mail, a program that offers library materials by mail to individuals who are unable to access the library due to disability, long-term or chronic illness, lack of transportation or other difficulty; and current renovations to the front entrance of the building which include the construction of an ADA compliant book drop and ramp.