The library joins several others across the country to remove fines, making sure all children have access to important educational resources.
In a monumental move, The Boston Public Library announced on Friday, October 25 that all Boston Public Library cardholders under the age of 18 will no longer have to pay fines on their overdue books. The policy change is expected to encourage more children to read and maintain free and open access to resources that they may not receive elsewhere, even at school. Though some are worried about whether children will simply steal books, thorough studies have proven that overdue fines actually increase the risk of theft and prevent young children from gaining access to the resources they need. In an announcement published late last week to the official Boston Public Library website, many individuals praised the decision.
Mayor of Boston Martin J. Walsh was the first of many to appreciate the move. He stated as he announced the policy change, "The accrual of fines puts a barrier between youth and the Library that can prevent future use of its materials, programming, and resources. In Boston, we believe that free and open access to the Library is crucial for children’s literacy and education. Going ‘fine free’ is a step to level the playing field and become closer to ensuring that everyone has access to the important resources the Library provides." The decision was made after the Boston Public Library Board of Trustees unanimously voted to eliminate the fees.
The change will take effect on November 1 of this year, at which point in time all remaining overdue fees and replacement costs for youth library cardholders will be removed. Cardholders under the age of 18 will no longer incur fines, but will still be required to return overdue books in order to check out new materials. If they are unable to return a book, they will have to pay a replacement fee if they wish to check out more materials in the future. This makes The Boston Public Library part of the five percent of public libraries that no longer charge overdue fees.
Boston Public Library President David Leonard affirmed, "We are proud to be joining the ranks of libraries across the country who are moving towards being fine-free. Too often, fines penalize those least able to afford them and have the unintended effect of turning young people, in particular, away from their libraries. That’s just not what ‘Free To All’ should mean in the 21st century. Eliminating youth fines reflects core values of The Boston Public Library — to be accessible, to be welcoming, and to ensure we are promoting youth reading, not preventing it."
Susan Benton, President and CEO of the Urban Libraries Council added, "Libraries are our societies’ most trusted public institutions – we are in the business of opening doors, not creating barriers for children and families. By joining libraries across North America in eliminating overdue fines for children and teen readers, Boston Public Library is taking a leading stance in ensuring all city youth have equitable opportunities to pursue their dreams." The Urban Libraries Council monitors and maps libraries going ‘fine free’ across the United States through an interactive map on its website. In a day and age when the joy of reading is losing its charm, and more importantly, its accessibility, policy changes like this could be the meaningful difference that influences a child to pick up a book, read, and learn. Hopefully, more libraries will take the hint and follow suit.