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Schenectady County Legislature Recommends Elimination of Late Fines to Schenectady County Public Library Board of Trustees

Schenectady County Public Library

The Schenectady County Legislature passed a resolution that asks the Board of Trustees of the Schenectady County Public Library System (SCPL) to adopt a policy that eliminates the imposition of late fines. The Legislature anticipates that the SCPL Board of Trustees will discuss this issue at their next meeting, which is on March 24.

Currently there are over 12,000 library cardholders, which represents about 26% of cardholders, who have a $5.00 or greater balance in fines on their SCPL account. This effectively blocks them from borrowing materials or using computers which can be a literacy barrier. Studies have shown that overall patrons are more likely to return their borrowed books and materials when late fines are not assessed.

“Libraries spread joy, provide useful information, build a sense of community, and encourage a love of reading at an early age,” said Schenectady County Legislator Sara Mae Pratt, Chair of the Education & Libraries Committee. “When patrons begin accumulating fines and fees, they become less inclined to visit the library. Assessing fines tends to drive away the people who stand to benefit the most from free library resources. Removing financial barriers that disproportionately affect low-income households will encourage people to come back to the library. By eliminating fines for overdue materials, we aim to provide equitable access to all residents. It is not the library’s role to teach accountability— the library’s role is to encourage lifelong learning, exploration, and innovation.”

In 2018 the American Library Association (ALA) adopted a resolution which states that monetary mines do not serve the core mission of a modern library and are discriminatory in nature. The New York Library Association formally endorsed the ALA resolution in 2019.

The Legislature anticipates the new policy will include provisions for assessing replacement fees in the event materials are lost by borrowers or if they have not been returned within a specified amount of time after the due date.

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