Farewell to Fines: Cleveland Public Library Goes Fine Free

On July 27, when Clevelanders flocked to the CPL150 Street Festival held in honor of the Library’s 150th anniversary, they also had another reason to celebrate: the official start of the Library’s new fine-fee policy, which will increase public access to library resources and information.

“We want to remove barriers, not block people from accessing the Library,” says Executive Director Felton Thomas, Jr. “We want to connect people to knowledge and ideas, not stand in the way. This important step will help us do our everyday work of fostering learning experiences—sparking curiosity, making connections, and building skills every day for all Greater Clevelanders.”

Beginning July 27, 2019, fines are no longer assigned to overdue Cleveland Public Library materials. If an item is not returned within 28 days, however, it will be considered lost and will accrue a replacement fee. This system ensures library materials remain in circulation while also releasing patrons from the burden of overdue fines, which may have a disproportionate effect on low-income and vulnerable populations.

Going fine free is a natural next step in the Library’s progression toward eradicating fines to improve access. The Library eliminated overdue fines for seniors in 1977, for children’s materials in 1978, for disabled patrons in 1992, and for young adult materials and homebound patrons in 2001. The fine-free trend is gaining traction both regionally and nationally, with libraries seeing the benefit of eliminating overdue fines for their patrons.

“We’re pleased to offer our community members the opportunity to use Cleveland Public Library materials without fear of incurring late fees,” Thomas says. “Going fine free is just one way we’re committed to leveling opportunities for all patrons—and we’re proud to do so in 2019, our 150th anniversary year.”