Greenfield Public Library eliminates late fees

  • The Greenfield Public Library on Main Street has announced it has eliminated fines for overdue materials, effective immediately. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 6/20/2021 6:00:23 PM

GREENFIELD — The Greenfield Public Library has announced it has eliminated fines for overdue materials, effective immediately.

The elimination of fines aims to make access to the library and its materials equitable for all patrons as it looks to moving into its new quarters, according to Assistant Library Director Lisa Prolman.

“There’s been a lot of research done over the last handful of years,” Prolman said. “And one of the things that has been discovered about late fees is they tend to predominantly be charged to folks in lower-income brackets who have difficulty getting to public libraries due to lack of public transportation, or any transportation, or lack of — in the case of children — adults who can bring them there.”

Historical late fees, but not replacement costs, that exist on patrons’ cards will also be forgiven. Exceptions to this new policy are museum passes, which have strict lending limits, and materials borrowed from other libraries.

Since the pandemic closed the library in March 2020, late fees have not been charged — a policy the library’s board of trustees, in accordance with Mayor Roxann Wedegartner, decided to continue.

“The library board of trustees unanimously voted in favor of eliminating fines for overdue materials and forgiving fines incurred but not yet paid,” Chair Doris Cowdrey said in a statement. “On a national level, many libraries are updating their policies as we are doing. There is a lot of research that indicates that fines are a deterrent for many folks, causing them to use their library less or not at all. We are all about serving the public and enhancing their lives. We do not want anything that is within our control to get in the way of our library serving our community.”

Wedegartner said she is “thrilled” the city is taking this step.

“As we’re heading out of an historic pandemic, it’s an important time to support our children and families in Greenfield,” Wedegartner said in a statement. “I applaud the library board of trustees’ unanimous vote in support of continuing this policy.”

Although Prolman couldn’t speak to what the library typically collects in fines each year, she said the amount the library has collected has dropped in recent years. Because of that, the topic of eliminating fines altogether has been considered on several occasions.

“We thought, with the pandemic uprooting everybody’s lives, it would be time to re-introduce this as a topic,” she said.

She said the Greenfield Public Library is historically one of few libraries in Massachusetts that has been able to retain the money it collects in late fees to supplement its books and materials budget.

“Many other municipalities’ fines go into the municipal budget, so the library has no control over it,” she noted.

In addition to state aid, Prolman said the library has been allocated more money from the city to support the materials budget, and people continue to make donations, “which is greatly appreciated.”

Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne


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