St. Paul Library Goes Fine Free But It Could Cost You

The St. Paul Public Library let tens of thousands of delinquent card holders who owed fines for overdue books off the hook just in time for Christmas. The freebie fulfills one of Mayor Melvin Carter’s campaign promises at the cost of more than $200,000 in uncollected fines.

But critics say the feel-good gesture sends the wrong message to those who use the city service, according to the Pioneer Press account.

The fine forgiveness has irked some traditionalists, who consider paying library fines a rite of passage and a mark of responsibility for young people.

It also required the city to find $215,000 to offset the lost fine revenue for 2019. The library system, however, had long done away with overdue fines for children’s books.

Library officials insist fines don’t work as a deterrent, even as they no longer attempted to hold some offenders accountable. They even claim the reprieve is “fiscally responsible.”

Due to the rise in electronic materials (which do not accrue late fines) and other factors, fines are not a sustainable form of revenue for the library. Money collected from fines and fees has gone down steadily for the past 10 years.

Yet the official notice on the library’s website also claims it’s all about breaking down barriers.

The library is now fine free. That’s right! We no longer charge fines on late items. This ensures that all people have access to library books and materials, which is our primary purpose as a public library. Here you’ll find information about this new policy and how it affects you.

The city still tracks how long users keep books, virtually holding their hand with numerous reminders and overdue notices. But a closer look at the details may make some potential patrons think twice.

Most items that are overdue by 35 days or more will be considered lost, and you will be billed for them. If you return the items, the bill will be cleared from your account.

Your account will be referred to the library’s collections agency approximately one month after you receive a bill if your total bill is more than $30. This information is NOT reported to credit bureaus.

If you return your items after you have been referred to the collections agency, you will not have to pay your bill on those items, but you will be charged a $10 collections agency processing fee.

So for all the talk of a kinder, gentler central library, those who fail to return books in a reasonable time can expect to be harassed by a collection agency. And it’s still going to cost you.