DENVER — Fines associated with late returns at the Denver Public Library will be a thing of the past starting in 2019.

DPL hopes the effort will remove barriers for vulnerable customers who can least afford fines while also increasing customer interaction with library materials and resources.

“Too often, overdue fines penalize the most vulnerable families and individuals who can least afford them,” DPL Director of Communications and Community Engagement Erika Martinez said. “We want to reverse this trend and get customers back into our buildings and back to accessing materials in the collection.”

Martinez said research has shown that fines do not always motivate customers to return items, and that the removal of overdue fines can have a dramatic impact on bringing customers back.

Right now, there’s a $0.20 daily overdue charge per late item, with fines stopping after the 15th day overdue - resulting in a $3 max fee per item.

Under the new policy, customers with items more than 14 days late will be blocked from further checkout until the items are returned. When asked if there’s any concern over whether the policy change will result in items not being returned all together, Martinez said the library doesn’t anticipate that being an issue.

“If people don't return items, they will be charged a fee to replace them and their accounts will be blocked from checking out new materials,” Martinez said. “Customers are still accountable.”

Last year, fines accounted for $110,339 in citywide revenue. Martinez said that money does not become part of the library’s operating budget, but rather, goes back into the city’s General Fund budget.

The change to policy was part of Mayor Michael Hancock’s proposed 2019 spending plan which was approved by the City Council and the Denver Public Library Commission this fall.

Earlier this year, Arapahoe Libraries decided to eliminate fees for overdue items. Other libraries in Colorado have adopted policies that waive late fees for kids and seniors.

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