Fine Free

The Baldwin Borough Public Library is now fine free. That’s right! We no longer charge fines on late items. This ensures that all people have access to library books and materials, which is our primary purpose as a public library. Here you’ll find information about this new policy and how it affects you.

Many people have asked us, why?

  • Fine free is good for our community. We are stronger when everyone has equal access to the programs, services, and materials they need to pursue their education, career, and life goals.
  • Late fines are not effective. Studies have shown that small fines have no impact on return rates.
  • It’s fiscally responsible. Due to the rise in eBooks (which do not accrue late fines) and other factors, fines are not a sustainable form of revenue for the library. Money collected from fines and fees has gone down steadily for the past 5 years, and is expected to continue to decrease.
  • A library should never be a financial burden in your life.  We are here to improve your life, not add stress or challenges
  • Here are some articles about fine free libraries in the news.
  • Below are some FAQs about the program, including the background into our decision.
How did we decide to go fine free?

For years, Baldwin Library staff members have sought to remove barriers to library services, with the end goal of eliminating late fines in order to make the Library more accessible to everyone.

Various steps were taken throughout the years, including increasing the renewal limits on items, increasing the loan period on children’s materials, increasing the fine limit for checkouts, and removing fine limits for computer access.

In 2018, library staff members across the county did extensive research into late fines, including reading articles about other library systems experiences with fine free services. Libraries across the country are eliminating late fines, with no reported negative outcomes. Based on this comprehensive research, it was determined that eliminating fines was a feasible option that would improve library access to communities.

In 2019, Baldwin Library joined a group of 11 other Allegheny County libraries, to further explore this service and develop a plan of implementation for a 4-month pilot program. After months of planning,

The Board of Trustees approved the Library’s participation in the pilot program in July 2019, made effective beginning September 1, 2019.

Won’t this policy negatively impact the library’s budget?

No. Fines generate approximately 1% of our annual budget, and our statistics show that our fine income has decreased each year, especially with the increase in eBook usage.  eBooks do not have overdue fines and we have one of the largest circulation of eBooks in the County.  We have taken the all of this into consideration and feel confident that it will not affect our programs or services.  We have already identified other ways of generating income to help supplement our operating budget, through grants and fundraising.

If patrons are not charged overdue fines will items still be returned in a timely manner?

Yes, our expectation is that the majority of items checked out will still be returned within a few days of the due date.  Other libraries that have made this change have not seen a significant change in the rate of items that are overdue and see around 95% of items returned within one week of the due date. Most library patrons are responsible users and will continue to return items on time.

We have also increased the number of reminder notices we send to patrons and those items that are not returned will be billed. We will continue to monitor this policy change and will make improvements to our policies and procedures as necessary.

So, what does this mean for you?

  • If you check out or return materials to our library, you will no longer receive a daily late fine on overdue items. Not all libraries are part of this fine free pilot. Only items that are checked out or returned directly to the Baldwin Library will not have overdue fines.
  • You are still responsible for returning your items. We do want all items back!
  • The library will send you a series of reminders to return your items.  Most items will  be automatically renewed for you, as long as there is no hold on the item.  To help reduce confusion, we built in another reminder about your due dates.
  • Items that are overdue by 6 weeks or more will be considered lost, and you will be billed for them. If you return the items, the bill will be cleared from your account. Again, we just want our items back!

Reminder Notices

We have updated our automatic notices to reflect fine free and automatic renewals.  Notices will be sent earlier and more often to help you keep track of item due dates.  The library sends automated messages by email, phone, text or mail, depending on your preference.  We advise that you login into your account for the most updated information.

  • Courtesy Notice: 3 Days before an item is due
  • First Overdue Notice: 1 day late
  • Second Overdue Notice: 14 days (2 weeks) late
  • Third Overdue Notice: 28 days ( 1 month) late
  • Billed: 42 days late (6 weeks)

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