Albany public library decides to drop fines
City locations make move as a way to increase accessibility
As a way to increase accessibility, Albany’s libraries will eliminate fines on books and media starting Jan. 1.
You can start off the New Year fine-free at Albany public libraries.
As a way of increasing accessibility, city libraries are eliminating fines for books and media starting Jan. 1.
Albany Public Library joins many other libraries nationwide that have removed fines and, in turn, have seen increased use of their collections, more people signing up for library cards and more people returning to the library.
“Late fines are a poor incentive for people to bring books back on time. And, they keep people who are unable to pay those fines away from the library,” library Executive Director Scott Jarzombek said in a news release. “By eliminating late fines, we hope to bring people back to the library and make it easier for them to borrow and use our collection.”
Beginning next year, overdue books, DVDS, CDS and audiobooks will no longer accrue late fines. Previous late fines for these materials also will be waived.
Jarzombek said those who have overdue library items will still be billed if they’re not returned and will lose the ability to borrow other items until they are returned.
“Really, what drives returns isn’t the fear of paying the fine, it’s the fear of losing their borrowing privileges,” he said.
When the item is returned, the bill will be thrown out, Jarzombek said.
“This is a great opportunity to get back some items that have
been out in the community for a long time,” he said.
Some of those items are years overdue, too, he added.
Fines make up about 1 percent of the overall library budget, Jarzombek said, and with few returning to pay that fee, it’s even less effective as a revenue source.
To compensate, the library has shifted to more permanent revenue streams. The libraries now sell navigator passes and are considering selling passports in the future, Jarzombek said. Empty rooms at the Washington Avenue branch also are rented out for classroom space, he said.
“We’re making money off of some things that are actually drawing new people into the building,” Jarzombek said. “We actually think it’s impacted our door counts and car registration.”
Overdue instruments and museum passes will still accrue a late fee because the demand is so high, he said.
Details of the policy are being finalized prior to the Jan. 1 implementation, and updates will be shared on the library’s website, social media channels and branches.
Fines make up only about 1 percent of the Albany Public Library’s budget and it is not considered an effective source of revenue, officials said.