HCPL Goes Fine Free: staff, patrons, community impact

Maybe you've heard...

No More Late Fees at HCPL!

As of February 2023, Harris County Public Library ended fines to ensure equal access to materials for all, especially the most vulnerable in our community. Patrons will still be financially responsible for lost and damaged items, but if you bring items back after their due date, you will no longer accrue daily charges. Old fines will also be waived!

Now, after a month of being fine-free, here's what people are saying:

Staff reactions:

"Going fine free is so important for our patrons because it removes an unnecessary access barrier, especially for children, teens, and families." - Sadina S., Barbara Bush Branch

"Patrons definitely appreciate having a little extra time with their books." - Silvia R.D., Galena Park Branch

"Fine free culture is an open and welcoming culture, which is exactly how and what the library is meant to be." - Amanda R.P., Barbara Bush Branch

"Just because we're fine free doesn't mean we won't come find you if you don't return your books.... JK, lol!" - Anonymous staff member 

Patrons reactions:

"Woohoo!" - Bibliovore (comment on HCPL blog)

"We're so glad y'all're fine free! No late fees means no stress and no shame. I think it will also encourage us to check out more books!" - patron at Barbara Bush Branch 

"What a wonderful thing to do for the citizens of the county! The library is such a great resource when you need to learn a new skill, change jobs, learn a new language, paint, etc and not having to worry about late fees is so helpful. I sometimes have trouble with transportation so I can be late with returning items and just quit checking out books because of it so hopefully this will be helpful even though I still try to return things timely so others can use them. Thank you!" - Carina (comment on HCPL blog)

"Wow, really? That's amazing! How do you all manage that?" - Judith S., patron at Freeman Branch
"It's so kind of you that you're providing us that grace!" - patron at West University Branch
"Whoever thought of that idea... that's really wonderful!" - patron at Aldine Branch

Community impact:

"Fines create financial barriers that discourage attendance and keep people from valuable resources—especially people who may most need the library’s free resources. Libraries should be a place where everyone feels welcome. Libraries are a vital community resource. Everyone should feel welcome and be able to access services without fear of punishment or fines." - Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis

"The materials are purchased with taxpayer dollars, so it belongs to the community anyway. I just want people to utilize it and make the most out of the opportunity in terms of being able to read and access our materials." - Edward Melton, Director of HCPL

How has HCPL being fine-free affected you, or how do you think it will affect you? How do think it has affected or will affect our community? Drop a comment below!