PMRLS goes Fine Free

PMRLS is now Fine Free

Beginning June 1, late fees are going away at the public library, and local residents can begin visiting the library with a clean slate.

Pine Mountain Regional Library System is going “fine free” at all seven of its locations. After pilot programs at three library systems in Georgia found that eliminating late fines can increase library attendance and materials circulation, the library’s Regional Board voted to follow suit.

“Late fees can be a barrier to access,” said Cynthia Kilby, director of Pine Mountain Regional Library System (PMRLS). “Some of our patrons have a hard time finding money to pay the rent; they shouldn’t have to worry about overdue fines, too.”

Fines for late materials do not seem to be much of an incentive for returning books on time anymore, Kilby added. Library patrons will return books when they are ready or able, and the $0.20 per day late fee wasn’t increasing the chances of books being returned on time.

“We quickly realized during the pandemic that fines are not a reliable source of funding,” Kilby said. “Since 2021, we have not calculated late fees into our budget. It accounted for less than 1 percent of the library’s funding.”

Although the library is considered “fine free,” not all library fines and fees are going away.

“It may be a bit confusing at first,” said Jennifer Domenech, assistant director. “Only books, audiobooks, DVDs, and Blu-Rays owned by Pine Mountain Regional Library System are included in the fine free initiative. Technology items, like Launchpads or Chromebooks, and Family Fun Passes, like the Atlanta Zoo pass, will still accrue fines. Materials owned by other PINES libraries will also be charged late fees.”

PINES (Public Information Network for Electronic Services), a program of the Georgia Public Library Service, connects more than 300 public libraries throughout Georgia and provides access to more than 11 million books and materials.

Patrons at PMRLS branches can place holds on materials owned by other PINES libraries and then pick up those items at their home branch. Those items may still accrue late fees if they are overdue. Library visitors will be able to see which items may be charged overdue fees by looking at their check-out receipts.

Pine Mountain Regional Library System will join library systems like Chattahoochee Valley Libraries, DeKalb County Public Library, Troup-Harris Regional Library, and several other systems throughout the state by removing overdue fees.

“A growing body of research shows that fines disproportionately affect low income community members and decrease library usage, as parents and others hesitate to check out books for fear of fines,” said Vice Chancellor for Archives and Libraries and State Librarian Julie Walker in a press release earlier this year.

The library system will still charge for lost or damaged materials, as well as for services such as printing and faxes. However, the library’s Regional Board voted to give patrons a clean slate with a one-time forgiveness for all lost and damaged materials owned by PMRLS.

Pine Mountain Regional Library System serves Meriwether, Talbot, Taylor and Upson counties. For a list of locations, click here.