As of January 1, 2024, the Mountain Lakes Public Library is fine-free! That means that the Library will no longer charge late fees for overdue materials or materials returned past their due date. Any existing fines on Mountain Lakes Library-owned materials will be waived.
Many Libraries across the nation and in our local region have already adopted fine-free policies, and we are proud to be among their ranks. As a fine-free Library, we are making our institution a more open, equitable, and welcoming place for our community.
Library fines have been proven time and time again to be nuisance fees that have little or no impact on whether a person returns their library materials on time. Instead, they have been shown to deter library use because they are punitive measures that cause inconvenience and create a negative customer service environment. When Libraries go fine-free, they have overwhelmingly observed increases in the circulation of Library materials, increases in library card renewal and registration, and the return of long-overdue materials.
Why has the Library gone fine-free?
We are always looking for ways to create a culture of convenience and friendliness in the Library, and this is one way we can do just that. The average late charge on our patrons’ accounts is cents, not dollars. Removing these minimal fees is eliminating a nuisance to our users.
Going fine-free means we are creating a more positive customer service environment. It also means that the Library’s staff will spend less time haggling over dollars and cents, and more time on providing good service, planning great programs, maintaining an excellent collection, and making meaningful connections to our community.
Every year, more and more public libraries, nationally and locally, adopt fine-free policies. Many libraries in neighboring towns are already fine free, and more are expected to make the change in the coming years. The list of fine-free libraries just in our region includes: Chatham, Morristown, Livingston, Long Hill, Parsippany-Troy Hills, Roxbury, Randolph, Ramsey, Montclair, Maplewood, Westfield, Newark, Hackensack, Summit, Union, Clark, Ocean County and Warren County.
Don’t late fees ensure that people return materials on time?
No! Contrary to popular belief, fines have little effect on the timely return of materials. In fact, the opposite has been proven to be true: when fines are removed, more library materials are returned on time. Studies have shown that once a person has a late fine, they are less likely to visit the library again. Often, when libraries remove late fees, they have observed the return of “long-lost” materials… even some that are decades overdue!
Are there still due dates for checked out library materials?
Yes. Library materials will still have a set time limit, and we expect items to be returned on or before their due date. If an item is overdue by 45 days or more, you may experience a “block” on your account that prevents you from accessing services until the item is returned. We ask that you be considerate of your fellow Library users who may be waiting for an item you have checked out.
What happens if I have outstanding fines on my account?
If you have any overdue fines on your Mountain Lakes Library account, please visit us and we will waive them. If your accrued fees are associated with lost or damaged items, you may still be liable for them.
What about materials I borrow from other Libraries?
The Library that owns the materials determines the fine. Patrons will not be assessed late fees for Mountain Lakes-owned items. However, you may be charged a fine for materials borrowed from a Library that still imposes fines.
What happens if someone doesn’t return their item? If an item is overdue by 45 days or more, the patron will experience a “block” on their account that prevents them from accessing services until the item is returned. Blocked accounts cannot access Libby, Kanopy, or museum passes.
Library materials that are overdue 60 days or more are assumed to be lost. Lost items are automatically billed to the patron’s account. If a person has a bill of $10.00 or greater, they will not be able to check out additional library materials or use certain library services until the item is returned or the bill is paid.
What happens if an item is returned damaged?
Patrons will be held responsible for the replacement cost for lost or damaged items.
Are there any exceptions to the fine-free policy?
Yes. Some items will still carry late/overdue fees. Those items include:
· Museum Passes
· WiFi Hotspots
· Portable Chargers
Patrons may also be assessed a fee for returning certain items in the book drop when instructed otherwise, or for returning items with pieces missing. Whenever an item has a fine or fee associated with it, notice will be given at the time of check out.
Doesn’t the Library rely on fine revenue to operate?
No. Fines are not a reliable source of revenue for the Library, and account for less than 0.3% of the Library’s overall income.
Can you share more information about libraries adopting fine-free status?
Absolutely! Here is a list of articles and resources about fine-free libraries:
Credit to the Florham Park Public Library for this FAQ template