The Enoch Pratt Free Library is joining a small but growing list of library systems in major cities that are doing away with fines for patrons.
Starting today, the Pratt is restoring borrowing privileges to more than 13,000 patrons with overdue fine balances on their accounts, according to a release. And from here on out, the library will forgive all fines for overdue items—so long as you eventually return them in good condition and without any damage.
“As a public library, our top goal is to provide equal access to information, services and opportunities for all,” library system president and CEO Heidi Daniel said in a statement. “We know fines are a barrier to access for thousands of Baltimore city residents. We want to break down that barrier for them.”
More than 26,000 patrons have overdue fines, Enoch Pratt spokeswoman Meghan McCorkell said in an email. About half had until today been restricted from borrowing more items until they paid their dues.
Enoch Pratt collects roughly $100,000 each year from overdue fines, McCorkell said, which represents about a quarter of a percent of Enoch Pratt’s annual budget of about $40 million. The outstanding total over three years is $186,000.
“We spend more trying to collect the fines,” Gordon Krabbe, Enoch Pratt’s chief operating officer, said in a statement. “This is a policy that just makes sense.”
Baltimore’s library system is the first one in Maryland and on the East Coast to phase out fines, and is following in the footsteps of major cities like Nashville, Columbus and Salt Lake City. San Diego is also reportedly mulling a similar change to better serve low-income patrons. Los Angeles late last year erased all fines for patrons under age 21, and New York City unveiled a similar initiative for patrons younger than age 18 and high school students age 18 and older.
The change is already in effect in Baltimore, but library system officials and Mayor Catherine Pugh will announce it today at a block party from 2-5 p.m. at the Walbrook Branch Library, located at 3203 W. North Avenue.