Russell County Public Library

Fine-Free Policies & Automatic Renewal

Russell County Public Library (RCPL) will no longer charge overdue fines effective July 1, 2021. RCPL is thrilled to remove this barrier to our resources and to provide more equitable library access to everyone in our communities.

Why eliminate fines?

Digital materials are never “overdue” and never have fines. If you have the means to buy a digital device, you can avoid overdue fines. If you have the means to obtain Internet access, you can bypass the physical library and fines altogether. Hence fines disproportionately affect people at the bottom end of the socio-economic status or those that live where the Internet is unavailable.

Automatic renewal also drastically reduces overdue fines. During the pandemic, no fines were charged and we saw no change in the rate of material returns. Research has shown that overdue fines are not effective in encouraging the return of library materials. However, fines can quickly become a barrier to using the library.

In addition, if you use digital library materials, you never have overdue fines. Patrons who continue to use print materials are at a disadvantage to those who use digital materials. It didn’t seem fair.

We know that life happens sometimes and it can be difficult to return items on time, so we don’t want overdue fines to discourage patrons from the invaluable free technology, literacy, and lifelong learning resources that our libraries offer.

Patrons no longer need to worry about overdue fines in the future or the past. All existing RCPL overdue fines have been waived.

Due Dates

Every item checked out will still have a due date. Please remember that someone else may be waiting for an item, so bring it back on time. You will be receiving more frequent reminders about overdue materials. If someone else has placed a hold on an item, it will not be automatically renewed.

Automatic Renewal

When materials are automatically renewed, patrons receive notification of items renewed and a new due date via email/text. If materials cannot be renewed (hold, renewal limit met, etc.), patrons are notified and an overdue notice is generated.

Damaged or Lost Items

Our fine-free initiative applies only to overdue items. Fees for damaged or lost items will still be charged to cardholder accounts.

Blocked Accounts

Once your card reaches a total of 10 overdue items or any item overdue for more than 3 weeks, your library account will be blocked. When that happens, you will not be able to check out more items or access certain digital content until the overdue items are returned. You will be billed for the overdue items when they have been overdue for 90 days.

Frequently Asked Questions

I have a card with old late fines on it. Can I still use it?

Yes! All existing overdue fines have been waived. Some patrons may still see charges for lost or damaged items. Please get in touch with us if you have questions about your account.

What about the lost revenue that overdue fines generated? How can I support the library?

The revenue from overdue fines was less than one percent of RCPL’s budget. That revenue disappeared with automatic renewal. You can donate to the Friends of the Russell County Library if you want to help the library.

I found an item that I’m being charged for as “lost.” Can I bring it back?

Yes, please do! There won’t be any overdue fines, but you may still be responsible for a processing fee depending on how long it’s been lost.

What about hold times? Will I have to wait forever for my item?

Patrons will be receiving additional and more frequent notifications about overdue items to encourage them to return materials. Research has shown that overdue fines are not effective in encouraging the return of library material. Plus, items with holds will not be renewed.

Why did you decide to eliminate overdue fines?

In January 2019, the American Library Association (ALA) passed a resolution that asserted overdue fines are a barrier to equitable access and encouraged libraries to eliminate them. The ALA is our largest professional organization and we give serious consideration to their resolutions.

In going fine-free, we are joining the ranks of many other public libraries across the nation. In the lead-up to this decision, we carefully reviewed studies and articles about eliminating fines. Some examples of these include:

Are Fines Effective? Access Services Conference 2017 Poster

Lightfoot’s decision to eliminate library fines triggers 240% increase in book returns

Removing Barriers to Access: Eliminating Library Fines and Fees on Children’s Materials

The case against library fines–according to the head of The New York Public Library

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