MILLBURN, NJ — Beginning on January 1, 2020, the Millburn Free Public Library began a six-month trial period for going “fine free.” This measure was approved unanimously at the December meeting of the library’s Board of Trustees. If the trial period is successful, the program will be enacted forever.
TAPinto Millburn first reported on the new policy back in early January, but the question remains. Why would the library choose to do this? Aren’t fines the only reason people return library books at all? Won’t this policy benefit patrons at the expense of the library?
Well, according to the library, going “fine free” is actually a win-win situation. Sarah Pardi, the Millburn Library’s Head of Public Services, explained the rationale.
“The library administration is continually evaluating ways we can improve service to our community," Pardi said. "As part of our recent strategic plan, we have highlighted the values which guide us. These are respect, professionalism, kindness, knowledgeability, fairness, equal access and privacy. Introducing a fine free program helps us meet our goals and strengthen those values.”
Patrons no longer have the stress of needing to return books exactly on the due date, so their experience becomes far more positive. Additionally, those with limited means of getting to the library to physically return books, such as children, are now able to check out more books.
While the daily fines will no longer accrue on books, the library will still charge full replacement of any items over due for 90 days. There are also three items that will continue to accrue overdue fines: museum passes, iPads, and Wi-Fi hotspots.
The continuation of daily fines is due to the high demand for these items among library patrons. In addition, the FAQ from the library notes that the checkout system will block an account with 10 or more overdue items.
People who have overdue books they’ve held onto for inordinate periods of time in shame can now return to the library with complete amnesty. The possibility of a clean slate will increase the amount of people who use the library.
Therefore, the library now has more patrons who check out more books. It also turns out that overdue fines only made up 0.4% of the library’s operating budget, meaning that getting rid of fines will not hinder the way the library functions at all.
So far, Pardi says the response from the community has been “very positive.” If this trend continues, it looks like “fine free” will become the new standard in Millburn Township.