Fine Free Libraries map

A map of fine-free libraries currently in the United States created by the Urban Libraries Council.

The Stoughton Public Library might be joining a national trend to eliminate overdue fines.

Library director Jim Ramsey said with COVID-19 safety precautions, it is nearly impossible to collect fines for books that are returned late. With surrounding libraries going fine free, he wants to be fair to the patrons.

The library finance committee is expected to discuss the elimination of fines at its next meeting, likely in September, Ramsey said.

The South Central Library System, to which Stoughton Public LIbrary belongs, includes libraries from seven counties that share books and services. A single library card allows patrons to check out materials from any library in the SCLS, Ramsey said that it would be unfair to charge patrons in Stoughton who could just go to nearby libraries and avoid fines.

“It is a matter of being fair to our patrons and not nickel and diming them,” he said.

Public libraries in surrounding communities including Fitchburg, Sun Prairie and Verona have done away with late fees. And Madison libraries announced eliminating fines just one month ago.

Ramsey previously told the Hub that he did not expect to see a large increase in circulation if they decided to eliminate fines. However, he said if neighboring libraries are fine free, patrons might go elsewhere to avoid overdue fees.

Ramsey led a public presentation in November on eliminating overdue fines, and said there would still be fines for lost items that are never returned.

After Chicago’s public libraries became the largest public library system to eliminate daily overdue fines, it saw a 240% increase in book returns after the fees were eliminated, The Chicago Tribune reported.

Ramsey previously told the Hub that overdue fines currently make up about 1.9% of the Stoughton library’s revenue.

The Stoughton Public Library’s fines are 20 cents per day for most adult materials and 10 cents per day for juvenile items. For some items that are particularly in demand, fines can go up to $1 a day.

Contact Mackenzie Krumme at mackenzie.krumme@wcinet.com.