ST. LUCIE COUNTY — The St. Lucie County Library System has announced that they are "going fine free." They will no longer charge fines for most overdue materials – with the exception of materials checked out through the statewide interlibrary loan service.

By eliminating most fines on a permanent basis, the library is welcoming back the thousands of cardholders who have been unable to take full advantage of everything the library has to offer.  The fine free initiative goes into effect Wednesday, May 5. The the St. Lucie County Board of County Commissioners approved the measure at its May 4 regular meeting.

Going fine free doesn’t mean that patrons don’t have to bring books back to the library. Items will still have a due date and materials will still need to be returned. Materials can be renewed three times if there are no holds. If an item is not returned, or is returned damaged, patrons will still be charged for lost or damaged items.

“It removes a significant barrier to library use during these especially difficult times,” said Library Advisory Board President Ethel Rowland. “And it creates a more inclusive library that is better positioned to serve the entire St. Lucie County community.”

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. Libraries that have eliminated fines show that there has been no impact on return rates. In fact, it can even increase use of library materials.

Normally, a fine total of $10 places a block on patrons’ library cards. Fines must be paid down to below that amount to check out most materials or to submit an interlibrary loan request.

As they have done many times in the past, the Friends of the St. Lucie County Library Association have stepped in to support public library service for residents. The Friends have pledged $10,000 per year to partially offset the loss in fine revenue to the county.

“In a time of uncertainty, this is such good news for our community,” said Padrick Pinkney, Friends of the Library Treasurer. “The Friends see the Fine Free Initiative as another opportunity to show our support for excellent and innovative library service for all residents.”

St. Lucie County Library Director Susan Jacob noted that libraries throughout the country are going fine free and the response has been a high return of materials and high return of library users.

“Staff at the St. Lucie County Library are excited to see how the community responds to this change. The library will wipe out previously accrued fines and welcome back patrons who have not returned to the library because of their overdue fines. We look forward to welcoming back our patrons and materials,” added Jacob.

For more information the St. Lucie County Library System visit: www.stlucieco.gov/library.

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