We're going fine free!

We’re going fine free! Starting in early August, Oshkosh Public Library will no longer charge fines for most overdue materials.  

On Thurs., July 30, the Oshkosh Public Library Board of Trustees voted to approve a measure that will discontinue the collection of fines and remove past fines from patrons’ library cards. Exceptions include materials from some Winnefox libraries and items checked out through Interlibrary Loan.

This action by the library board will help us meet our core mission of providing free access to information to all community members regardless of their circumstances. The library had discontinued collecting fines in mid-March when library services were disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, to ease pressure on patrons during the evolving health emergency.  

By eliminating most fines on a permanent basis, the library is welcoming back the thousands of cardholders who are unable to take full advantage of everything the library has to offer.  

“It removes a significant barrier to library use during especially difficult times,” said Board of Trustees President Christine Melms-Simon. “And it creates a more inclusive library that is better positioned to serve the entire Oshkosh community.”

Normally, a fine total of five dollars places a block on patrons’ library cards. Fines must be paid down to below that amount to check out materials (including digital resources such as Hoopla and Overdrive) or submit an interlibrary loan request.

Please continue to check this page and our social media accounts for the latest information. Fees will continue to be charged for the replacement of lost or damaged materials; fines will be charged for overdue materials borrowed from other libraries that assess them.

This initiative comes after a year of research on the role of fines and studying data from public libraries who have already eliminated fines. Evidence shows library fines disproportionately impact society’s most vulnerable, such as those in low-income situations and seniors on fixed incomes.    

“Many American public libraries have already recognized that overdue fines are unjustly discriminatory and ineffective as incentives for the return of library materials,” said Library Director Jeff Gilderson-Duwe. “Fines create barriers to use of public library collections for economically challenged children and their families; and they damage relations between library workers and patrons by shifting the focus from service to enforcement. Elimination of fines for overdue materials has very quickly become a ‘best practice’ for modern public libraries.” 

Fines make up less than 1 percent of the library’s budget. The library had collected about 20 percent of this year’s estimated $29,000 in fine revenues when COVID-19 forced the library to close in mid-March.  

Given the rapidly changing nature of the health crisis, there is no guarantee that the library will collect more overdue fines before the end of 2020 – which means we’ve already absorbed the budget impact of the lost revenues in 2020.   

In 2019 the American Library Association passed a resolution citing mounting evidence that eliminating fines increases library card adoption and library use. The resolution also recognized fines as a form of “social inequity” and urged libraries to actively “move toward eliminating them.”   

“In a time of uncertainty, this is good news for our community,” said Gilderson-Duwe. “We look forward to welcoming back our patrons and materials."

See our FAQ for more information.