Pittsburgh-area libraries get rid of late fees, even outstanding ones | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Pittsburgh-area libraries get rid of late fees, even outstanding ones

click to enlarge Pittsburgh-area libraries get rid of late fees, even outstanding ones (2)
CP Photo: Kaycee Orwig
Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
Public libraries have always served as a free resource for books, movies, and other media, internet access, and services ranging from job search help to teen programs. Now those will become even more accessible in Pittsburgh as two library systems in the area have moved to completely eliminate late fees.

The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and the Allegheny County Library Association are both fine-free across all or most of their locations. Not only that, but the systems have forgiven outstanding late fees for library patrons, as reported by WESA and other outlets.

All 19 CLP branches have stopped charging late fees, making permanent the move to forego late fees during the pandemic as a way to accommodate patrons who either had no way to return materials or could not pay overdue fines due to financial circumstances. The decision to permanently waive all late fees was implemented in late January, with CLP spokesperson Suzanne Thinnes confirming that pre-existing fines have also been purged.

For years, ACLA has been unfolding a Fine-Free Library Program across many area branches, as well as its Bookmobile service. ACLA, a system of 46 independent public libraries, with more than 70 locations that collaborate and share resources, attributes the decision to a national push for eliminating late fees, citing efforts by the Urban Libraries Council, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that describes its mission as "creating new frameworks that invigorate public libraries and their communities."

According to its website, the ACLA initiated the Fine Free Library Program in September 2019 with nine libraries throughout the region, including the Baldwin Borough Public Library, Braddock Carnegie Library, and its Turtle Creek satellite, C.C. Mellor Memorial Library in Edgewood and Forest Hills, Carnegie Free Library of Swissvale, F.O.R. Sto-Rox Library, Millvale Community Library, Monroeville Public Library, Penn Hills Library and its Lincoln Park satellite, and Wilkinsburg Public Library and its branch in Eastridge.

The second phase followed in November 2019 with the addition of the CLP’s Allegheny, East Liberty, and Knoxville locations.

ACLA's decision was also motivated by the recognition that libraries are "no longer just places for books," but offer patrons "technology workshops, small business support, 24/7 virtual access to eBooks and digital materials and many other experiences — all through a single, countywide library card."

“Fines can present a significant barrier for a segment of parents and children, making them reluctant to return to their local library when facing outstanding late fees and fines," said Marilyn Jenkins, executive director of ACLA, in a previous statement about the program. "This is counter to the primary goal of all of our libraries to encourage participation in library programs and access to the many services offered. We believe that library resources bring benefit to everyone, and ensuring access is of paramount importance.”