The Library has made a change that is … ahem, long overdue.
As of Monday, July 1, 2019, the Kansas City Public Library no longer charges fines for overdue books and other materials. Additionally, existing overdue fines have been erased from all Library cardholder accounts, giving everyone a clean slate. Going forward, any overdue materials will fall under the Library’s new Freedom from Fines policy.
So what does this mean?
- No more daily late fines charged on overdue items.
- Existing overdue fines have already been cleared from all accounts, giving everyone a fresh start.
- No more fine-related restrictions on use of public computers or access to digital materials (such as eBooks, digital audiobooks, and online databases), even for people who may have accumulated substantial amounts in fees.
“We’re doing it for one essential reason,” says Library Director Crosby Kemper III. “Fines – in particular, for low-income families – are a barrier to using the Library, and we want to remove that barrier and encourage everyone to use the Library.”
While the Library has eliminated overdue fees, borrowed materials still have due dates. Any item not returned 14 days after its due date is considered lost, subjecting the borrower to fees for lost materials. However, once any item considered lost is found and returned, those fees are erased and the patron will owe nothing. Fees for damaged materials also remain in place.
Eliminating late fines gives the people of Kansas City greater access to information and opportunity. Freedom from Fines frees everyone to pursue their educational, career, and personal goals at the Library.
On Friday, June 28, the new fine-free practice was publicly announced at a community celebration at the Library’s Southeast Branch (view video from the event). During the program, Kansas City Mayor-elect Quinton Lucas talked about frequenting the Southeast Branch and other Library locations as he grew up.
“A very kind librarian said I should get a library card and take books home,” he said.
Lucas maintained that the Library’s new Freedom from Fines policy will benefit to many in the community. “Fundamentally, this is about access for more people, particularly for young people,” he said. “I’m so proud today of our Library for getting rid of one of those [barriers].”
Kansas City Councilwoman Alissia Canady also spoke about the critical role the Library plays as a place open for all.
“The Kansas City Public Library has done one more thing to remove barriers to success for our children – and not just our children, but all our residents in this community,” she said, noting the prospect of “creating opportunities and access to opportunities.”
Canady pointed to the Library as the place where she learned about computers when she was young. She went on to take classes and use other services there.
“I appreciate [the Library] for being a resource center,” she said. “The kids read books, but they also learn a lot about their city, a lot about socialization, about how big and broad the opportunities are for them that transcend what they see every day.
“I want to remind everyone here or watching that readers are leaders.”
Access to Library books and materials is crucial to youth development, especially to building literacy skills. Turn the Page KC, founded by outgoing Mayor Sly James as a reading proficiency initiative, works with the Library to improve grade-appropriate literacy and reading capabilities. Mike English, the organization’s executive director, spoke about the importance of the Library’s role in nurturing that progress.
“The spark that ignites a child’s excitement about reading can be a delicate thing,” he said. “Any barrier, even if it is a small fine, can stop a small child who (otherwise) may become an excited reader.
“I want to applaud the Kansas City Public Library for doing this,” he said. “Taking away late fines is going to make a huge difference, and we’re going to have many, many more kids not just reading proficiently, but being excited about reading and seeing themselves as readers.”
Samara Crawford-Herrera, Kansas City Public Schools’ manager of partnerships and community engagement, enthusiastically celebrated the fine free policy and its expected impact on students. “This is exciting,” she said, adding with a smile, “This is not my grandmother’s library.”
The Freedom from Fines policy buttresses an existing schools-library collaboration, she noted.
“For Kansas City Public School students … their ability to utilize their student ID as their library card dismantles so many barriers. It removes the stigma that learning can only happen during class time,” Crawford-Herrera said.
“As our community anchor institution, this library is committed to being open, safe, and accessible to our community’s youth long after many organizations have closed their doors for the day. Today the Kansas City Public Library is the source of real change across our community.”
Freedom from Fines Celebrations
All 10 Kansas City Public Library locations celebrated the fine-free move on July 1, serving cookies and lemonade. A limited supply of special Library tote bags were also given away to Library guests, and youth and adults alike signed up for the Library’s 2019 Summer Reading Program.
- Central Library // Noon – 1 p.m. music performance by ukulele duo Moonlight Serenade.
- L.H. Bluford Branch // 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. open house including book giveaways. Additionally, the branch joins in the statewide commemoration of Lucille Bluford Day on July 1.
- North-East Branch // 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. open house with interactive community activities.
- Plaza Branch // 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. open house
- I.H. Ruiz Branch // 11 a.m. – noon open house
- Southeast Branch // 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. open house
- Sugar Creek Branch // Noon – 7 p.m. open house
- Trails West Branch // 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. open house
- Waldo Branch // Noon – 2 p.m. open house
- Westport Branch // 11 a.m. – noon open house