Fine Free Library

The Plum Borough Community Library is now fine free! Starting March 2021, all Plum Library patrons will have their overdue fines automatically waved.  From March onward, all items checked out at Plum and returned to Plum will not generate fines, including items that have been overdue for a long time.  

Why are we doing this?

  • Late fines are not effective. Studies have shown that small fines have no impact on return rates. 
  • It’s fiscally responsible: Due to the rise in eBooks (which don’t accrue late fines), automatic renewals, fines are not a sustainable form of revenue for the library.  Money collected from fines has gone down over the past five years and is expected to decrease.   
  • A library should never be a financial burden in your life.  We are stronger as a community when everyone has equal access to the programs, services and materials they need to pursue their education, career and life goals.  

How does this impact you?

  • We still want our items back! You are still responsible for returning your items. 
  • If you checkout or return materials to Plum library, you will no longer receive a daily late fine on overdue items.   
  • Most items will continue to be automatically renewed for you, unless they have a hold on them. You will receive notices to remind you to return your items. You can also check your due date on your online account or call the library and we will be happy to help!  
  • All items now are due in 3 weeks, including DVDs and launchpads.    

Frequently Asked Questions:

Does this policy change mean I can keep my library materials forever?  No. All library materials will still have a due date. You will still receive notices to remind you to return items.

  • 3 days before an item is due you will receive a courtesy notice as a reminder to return your items.
  • 1st overdue notice: 2 weeks after the due date
  • 2nd overdue notice: 4 weeks after the due date
  • 6 weeks overdue: A bill will be sent. If you return the items, the bill will be cleared from your account.

Won’t this policy negatively impact the library’s budget? Fines generate less than 3% and our statistics show that fine income decreases each year with items being automatically renewed and more people using our eResources.  We are exploring other ways of generating income to help supplement our operating budget. 

If patrons are not charged overdue fines, will items still be returned in a timely manner? Yes, our expectation is that the majority of items checked out will still be returned within a few days of the due date, regardless of an overdue fine.  Most library patrons are responsible users and will continue to return items on or near the due date.  Other libraries that have made this change have not seen a significant change in the rate of items that are overdue and see around 95% of items returned within one week of the due date.   

Will the library eliminate previously accrued overdue fines? Yes! We waived all overdue fines accrued under the old policy for library patrons who live in Plum. 

Will the library give refunds to patrons who paid their overdue fines before this change? No, the library does not refund overdue fines previously paid.   

Isn’t it the library’s job to teach civic responsibility with overdue fines?  The Plum Borough Community Library’s mission is to “provide the residents of Plum Borough with free and equal access to all library materials and services.” We believe this policy change will help us better accomplish our mission, and research has shown that fines do not effectively teach responsibility. 

Will items from other ACLA libraries still accrue daily overdue fines? 
Yes, materials that are checked out or returned to other libraries will still have fines, but we will waive them at Plum Library. Good news! About a third of libraries in the county are fine free including our two direct neighbors – Monroeville and Penn Hills!  

What is the difference between a fine and a fee?
Fines: Funds owed for overdue items. 
Fees: Funds owed for replacement items, collection agency charges, and other manual charges.

What other libraries have gone fine free outside of Allegheny County?  
Libraries across the country have become fine free.  Here are some articles about fine free libraries: