With City Council support, the Mill Valley Public Library joined its fellow MARINet libraries in eliminating late fees this week, making the case that the projected loss in revenue is far outweighed by the prospect of taking another key stride toward addressing social inequity.
City Librarian Anji Brenner noted that in addition to falling in line with the decisions by libraries across Marin and beyond, the move matches the American Library Association’s 2019 recognition that fines are a form of social inequity.
Brenner reported that while many libraries were starting to go fee-free prior to the pandemic and the long-overdue social equity conversations that have arisen over the past 18 months, many libraries have recognized “that a fundamental change was in order,” she said. It’s “very conclusive (that) the growing body of research shows fines disproportionately penalize marginalized communities.”
“The world has changed, and as we better understand how fines are yet another example of social stratification based on on ability to pay, the importance of addressing an equity issue (outweighs) the belief that fines will get books returned sooner or that the revenue that they generate is more important than the harm they cause,” Brenner told the Council.
Brenner reported that the annual revenue generated fines has been on the decline anyway and is projected to fall from to $32,643 in the 2019-20 fiscal year to approximately $10,000-$20,000 per year.
So what happens if I choose to never return a book? Do I get to keep borrowing?