Cambridge City
MA

Policy Order
POR 2020 #36
Order Adopted as Amended
Feb 24, 2020 5:30 PM

That the City Manager is requested to confer with Director of Cambridge Public Libraries to determine the feasibility of eliminating late fines.

Information

Department:City Clerk's Office, AMSponsors:Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui, Vice Mayor Alanna Mallon
Category:Policy Order

Attachments

  1. Printout

Body

WHEREAS:

Cambridge Public Libraries serve as a vital resource for our residents, particularly for vulnerable communities; and

 

 

WHEREAS:

In 2019, 5,748 Cambridge library patrons were blocked from accessing certain library services, such as checking out, checking in, and renewing materials, because they had accumulated over $10 in library late fees; and

 

 

WHEREAS:

24% (1367 of 5748) of blocked Cambridge library patrons (account charges > $10) are under the age of 18, suggesting that a substantial number of youth are not able to access certain library services due to the burden of library fines, despite the Libraries’ policy of not charging late fees on children’s and young adult’s materials; and

 

 

WHEREAS:

In Cambridge Public Libraries, adult items currently incur a ten cent fine for each day an item is returned or renewed past its due date; and

 

 

WHEREAS:

Commonwealth Catalog and Interlibrary loan adult items currently incur a $2.00 fine for each day an item is returned or renewed past its due date; and

 

 

WHEREAS:

Imposing late fines does not hold a significant monetary benefit, as Cambridge Public Libraries charged $77,870 in library fines in FY19, less than .07% of the total library budget of $12.5 million a year; and

 

 

WHEREAS:

Costs associated with administering library fines, including the costs of staff time, mailings, and more, also reduce the revenue accrued from imposed library fines; and

 

 

WHEREAS:

Many other municipalities, including Phoenix, AZ, Dallas, TX, and Chicago, IL, have experimented with eliminating late fees for all or some patrons in their own public libraries; and

 

 

WHEREAS:

These municipalities have had a lot of success with eliminating late fees, experiencing increased rates of material returns, increased library patronage, and increased library access for low-income residents, who may have difficulty paying late fines, and

 

 

WHEREAS:

Other municipalities have experimented with eliminating late fines only for certain groups, such as youth, seniors, or those with ADA accommodations, capping library fines at a low amount, creating “amnesty days” where late items can be returned without the charge of late fees, or asking for volunteer time or food donations in the place of money with success; now therefore be it

 

 

ORDERED:

That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to confer with Director of Cambridge Public Libraries to determine the feasibility of eliminating late fines in Cambridge Public Libraries, or other alternatives that would result in the same benefits to Library patrons; and be it further

 

 

ORDERED:

That the City Manager report back to the City Council in a timely manner.

 

Meeting History

Feb 24, 2020 5:30 PM Video City Council Regular Meeting
draft Draft

motion to amend third whereas

RESULT:ORDER ADOPTED AS AMENDED