Elkhart Public Library sees success going fine-free; Plymouth follows suit

Plymouth Public Library is wiping the slate clean for anyone with overdue books or outstanding fines in an effort to bring people back to the library.

They’re just one in a growing number of libraries going fine-free.

The director at the Plymouth Public Library says that overdue book fines have been doing more harm than good.

“We had almost 8,000 patrons with more than $146,000 worth of late fees in some way. If you were 10 and got a late fee and can't come back now because of that on your card, we don't want to see that happen anymore,” Plymouth Public Library Director Heather Barron said.

So, they decided to forgive every penny in hopes of inviting those back to the library who owed money before.

They're not the first to go this route, learning from the success of other libraries that have made this change.

“For the past six months, we have done a lot of research, reaching out to other libraries, finding out what's worked for them, how it can work for us and our community, and we think we've arrived in a pretty good place,” Barron said.

About the time when Plymouth began researching this strategy, Elkhart Public Library decided to go fine-free for children's materials.

“The goal is to get kids coming back to the library. So, we found that fines, late fines, charging them 10 cents a day, it's keeping them from using the library,” Elkhart Library Young People Services head Allison McLean said.

They say the past six months have been a success.

“We've been seeing people come back to the library bringing books that they had two years ago and never brought back, but now they could bring them back and not have to worry about those fines, and it's just bringing people back and giving access to more people,” McLean said.

It is a small holiday gift and an invitation to see all these library have to offer.

The Plymouth Public Library says they are now offering free movie rentals too, hoping to increase the number of people coming through the door.