We’re fine-free!

The Demarest Free Public Library’s mission is to be a welcoming space and to offer services that encourage lifelong learning, foster creativity and exploration, and inspire connections. In order to further fulfill our mission, the library will not charge overdue fines on books, magazines, or media owned by the Demarest Library, effective October 1, 2022. We only charge fines for our museum passes.

  • Why are we fine-free?
    Recent studies have shown that even small monetary fines may create barriers to accessing the library and discourage patrons from using our resources. We believe that providing equitable access to our services and materials strengthens our community. We hope this change will encourage patrons to return to the library and encourage new patrons to sign up for library cards.
  • Are there still due dates?
    Yes.The library still has a set time limit for materials to be borrowed and we expect items to be returned on time. We trust that you will be respectful of your fellow patrons who may be waiting for items to be returned. Bring back materials when they are due so that everyone has equal access to our collections.
  • What if I borrow items from another BCCLS library?
    Fines are set by the owning library. If an item is borrowed from a library that still imposes fines, you will be charged that late fine. We cannot waive fines imposed by other member libraries and must respect the policies of our partners in BCCLS.
  • What if I have outstanding fines on my account?
    We are working to waive all overdue fines charged in the past for Demarest items. This is a process that cannot be automated and will take some time to complete, so you may not see your Demarest Library fines removed right away. If you are concerned about outstanding fines on your account for items owned by the Demarest Library, stop in and we will clear them on the spot. Fees charged for lost or damaged material are still applicable and cannot be waived.
  • What happens if someone doesn’t return their items?
    If an item is not returned on time, automated reminders will continue to be sent at 14 and 28 days. After 60 days, the item is considered lost, and the patron will be billed for the replacement cost. Borrowing privileges are suspended for any patron who has lost an item.
  • Will this impact my taxes?
    No. Collected fines comprise a tiny portion of our budget; the lost revenue is far outweighed by the good this policy does for our community and the elimination of staff time spent collecting fines. The library was fine-free for several months in 2020 and that temporary change did not have an impact on our budget of any significance. The borough will not be allocating additional funds because of this change in policy.
  • Have other libraries eliminated late fines?

    Yes! In the USA, almost 500 libraries have adopted fine-free policies, and the number is growing every day. This number includes large libraries like the Boston Public and New York Public libraries as well as more than 30 of our partner libraries in BCCLS and many others throughout New Jersey.

    Read “Five Unexpected Benefits of Eliminating Library Fines”, based on Syracuse University’s research on overdue fines.

  • Won’t eliminating late fines stop people from returning items on time?

    Studies have shown that small fines have no impact on return rates. Once someone has a late fine, they are less likely to visit the library again. Libraries who have removed late fees report few adverse effects on material return rates. The public library model is based upon a trusting relationship between borrowers and a valued community resource. Library staff trusts that borrowers will return items on time so that others may use them.

    Read more about the effects of going fine-free in Library Journal‘s article, “Fine Farewell”.

View the library’s resolution eliminating fines here.

See the New Jersey Library Association’s statement in support of removing barriers to access.

Download the American Library Association’s Resolution on Monetary Fines as a Form of Social Inequality.