PAOLA — The Paola Free Library is letting its patrons know that late fines will be a thing of the past in 2021.
The library board voted in December to go fine-free in 2021, although there will still be fees for lost or damaged items, and items will be automatically marked lost once they are six weeks overdue.
Library Director Emily Burgdorf said there also will still be late fines for Mi-Fi devices.
The library has 20 Mi-Fi devices that provide Wi-Fi hotspots at home. Local residents can check out the devices for two-week periods with no renewals.
Burgdorf said the library’s trustees all viewed a webinar on going fine-free earlier this year.
“The main argument for going fine-free is that late fines disproportionately penalize lower-income families and ultimately discourage people from using the library — particularly the people who need us most,” Burgdorf said.
The Paola Free Library is not the first in the Northeast Kansas Library System (NEKLS) to go fine-free. Burgdorf said Osawatomie, Atchison and others have already done so, and the other directors she has spoken with said it didn’t appear to affect patrons’ returning habits one way or another.
“Plus, the money we collected in late fines in 2019 made up approximately two-thirds of a percent of our budget, so we can afford to do this,” she said.