Jersey City Free Public Library is now fine free!

Here at the Jersey City Free Public Library, we believe in empowering all people to strive for their dreams and goals. By eliminating fines for our materials, we can continue to do just that while cultivating equity by reaching even more people in our community.

Public libraries exist to serve the community – based on the concept of sharing resources and services. We are going fine free in order to reduce barriers and provide equal access for all.

Libraries that have adopted fine-free policies found that:
• Library card registrations increased;
• Borrowing of materials increased;
• More library items were returned;
• Students returned to the library to use homework resources;
• Staff time was redirected from handling fines to patron-focused services.

Effective immediately, the Jersey City Free Public Library will discontinue charging overdue fine penalties for late returns. We are zeroing out existing overdue balances of all of our patrons so everyone can start fresh.

JCFPL is now on the ULC Fine Free map! Take a look here.

What does fine-free mean?

Fines are a daily penalty assessed for late return of library items. Fine-free means just that – no late charges on our materials. The Jersey City Free Public Library Board of Trustees and staff want to ensure that everyone in our city has access to our resources in the most barrier-free way.

What does this mean for patrons?

Patrons will no longer be required to pay fines for overdue material. However, they will be responsible for the timely return of materials and payment of replacement costs for unreturned materials. Items are considered lost on the 30th day overdue. If a patron does not return materials 30 days after the due date, all the materials on the card will be billed as lost items. The patron’s card will be blocked until they return the materials or pay for the lost items.

If a library card becomes lost, stolen or misplaced, patrons will not be charged a fee for replacement library cards.

Why is the library eliminating fines?

By eliminating overdue fines, the JCFPL is taking a big step toward meeting its strategic directives. We promote lifelong learning and cultivate equity in our community through innovative programs, engaging collections, welcoming spaces, and committed staff. Also, it's good for Jersey City! Public libraries should be open to anyone and everyone. Denying patrons access to resources does not provide an incentive to return materials or to pay accumulated fines or fees.

In addition, those who owe fines may be reluctant to use the library in the future. The burden of fines can be very significant for individuals, families, and seniors on a fixed income. Eliminating daily overdue fines means users will not lose access to their library and the resources they want and need just because of a late return. Our community is stronger when people have access to programs, services, and materials they need to pursue their educational, career, family, and life goals. We hope this will encourage prior users to come back to the library and attract new users to experience our offerings.

Finally, eliminating fine collection will allow staff to focus on other service-related tasks while also giving patrons one less thing to worry about.

Will there still be due dates?

Yes, items will still have due dates – they will be printed on your checkout receipt and/or stamped in the back of the book. Please return any items that you borrow by their due dates so that others will be able to borrow them.

What will motivate people to return library items if there are no fines?

Patrons should make a habit of always returning items on or before the due date. It’s not just the right thing to do, it’s how libraries work. To give an extra push, patron accounts are blocked from making further checkouts when one or more items reach 30 days overdue. The library will continue to send overdue notices for library materials via email. There is still a consequence for not returning an item on time, but it will not be in the form of overdue fines. Your account will be unblocked when you return overdue items.

You say that many patrons have had their fines forgiven. Am I included?

Overdue fines for late returns have been eliminated; however, patrons who have lost or damaged materials will need to settle their account to reinstate borrowing privileges. The easiest way to find out if you have a remaining balance is to click here to review your account, call us at (201) 547-4526 or stop into your local branch and talk with a staff member. Please be sure to bring your photo ID or library card.

I didn't really lose these items, can I still bring them back?

Yes! Replacement costs will automatically be removed from your account and you will be back to borrowing.

Does the Library ever send someone to collections?

No, we do not.

Won’t eliminating overdue fines hurt the library’s budget?

Overdue fines currently amount to less than one percent of the Jersey City Free Public Library’s operating budget. The library will be able to adjust its spending with little to no impact on operations or on library services. By not collecting fines, library staff time can be redirected to support other library services.