Less is More: Library Eliminates Fines to Increase Access
The L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library in Eau Claire is eliminating late fines on nearly all
of their 220,000 circulating materials. Starting January 1, the library will stop charging overdue
fines for most items, and will waive existing fines from Eau Claire library materials. Late fines
will still be charged for certain items, such as kits, equipment, Lucky Day materials, and
materials from other libraries. Fees for damaged items will continue to be charged, and
customers who do not return items will be charged replacement fees.
“Eliminating fines on the bulk of our materials and waiving old fines will have a significant
impact on those unable to check out due to the balance on their account” says Isa Small,
Programming and Communications Services Manager. “Unfortunately, many of the folks with
blocked accounts are children and those with limited means. Consequently, many of the people
who could most benefit from library materials are not able to check out.”
“The library is committed to reducing unnecessary barriers that prevent residents from
accessing critical information needed to succeed in today’s world,” says Library Director,
Pamela Westby. “We are grateful for the support of our library Board of Trustees, which has
endorsed this opportunity to welcome back thousands of residents to the library by waiving fines
on library cardholder accounts.” The move is also in step with the City of Eau Claire budget
process, which recently added a guiding principle to “directly benefit persons with low and
“Fines are not a reliable or sustainable income source,” continues Westby. Revenue from
fines represents only about 1.2% of the total library budget. Meanwhile, there are approximately
8,000 library cardholders blocked from checking out to accrued fines of $10 or more. Research
shows no difference in the rate of overdue materials between the libraries charging fines and
those that don’t.
The “fines-free” movement has been gaining traction in public libraries across the country.
L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library belongs to the MORE consortium of 49 libraries, located in
the central northwest region of the state. Four other libraries in the consortium have already
opted to reduce or eliminate late fines, including Rice Lake and Augusta.
For information, stop at Information & Reference on your next visit to the library, call 715-
839-5004, or email the library at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about library
programs, check the library website at www.ecpubliclibrary.info.
If you have a need for a sign language interpreter or other special accommodations, please notify
Information & Reference (715-839-5004, email@example.com) at least 48 hours before the