Jersey City Free Public Library eliminates overdue fines

New policy seeks to provide equal access

The Jersey City Free Public Library will no longer charge those with overdue materials a late fee.
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The Jersey City Free Public Library will no longer charge those with overdue materials a late fee.

Jersey City Free Public Library Director Jeffrey Trzeciak announced the elimination of overdue fines for the library, making it the largest fine-and fee-free institution in New Jersey.

The library’s Board of Trustees voted in favor of the policy change on Jan. 12, which they said will help reduce barriers and provide equal access for all the library’s patrons.

“We are pleased to implement this fine-free policy,” Trzeciak said. “The burdens of the fines placed on our patrons are significant, and we recognize overdue fines are a form of social inequity which creates barriers to accessing library services, often for those who need it most. We hope that going fine-free will help bring more community members to the library.”

Under this new policy, effective immediately, JCFPL will remove all pending overdue fines for past due books and other materials.

Patrons will not face monetary penalties for returning books late, but they will still be required to return overdue materials in order to check out additional materials.

While patrons will no longer be fined for late returns, they will still be responsible for replacement costs if an item is lost, damaged, or not returned within 30 days after the due date, according to the library.

Books under the bed?

JCFPL still encourages patrons to renew or return books or other materials on the due date.

“Libraries are the heart of communities because they give residents access to resources and services they need,” said Liz Cartaina, division lead for the Collections and Access Division of the library. “Fines and fees resulted in the loss of patrons and was an ineffective way of recovering overdue materials. It became necessary for public library systems to find ways to encourage them to return.”

The library has erased overdue fines for thousands of patrons going back decades, and those whose accounts were previously blocked due to outstanding fines have now been reinstated in the library’s system.

The Jersey City Free Public Library, established more than 120 years ago, has 10 locations throughout the city, and is the largest municipal library in the state.

It provides a wide array of programming and resources, and access to a broad range of print, digital, and audiovisual collections.

Its mission is to promote lifelong learning and cultivate equity in the community through innovative programs, engaging collections, welcoming spaces, and committed staff.

On Feb. 24 at 6:30 p.m. JCFPL will host a virtual town hall meeting via Zoom focused on the library’s current services, new digital resources, and an update on its construction bond.

A question and answer session will take place at the end of the presentation.

To attend the virtual town hall register at bit.ly/JCLibraryTownHall_Feb24.

For updates on this and other stories check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Marilyn Baer can be reached at Marilynb@hudsonreporter.com.