NORWALK, Conn. – Library fines have been permanently abolished at Norwalk Public Library. Previous late fees have been waived.
The library had become partially fine free with children’s cards last June after Library Director Sherelle Harris showed the Library Board the percentage of Norwalk kids who get free- or reduced-price-lunches, a news release explained. A 2019 statement from the American Library Association (ALA) recognizes that fines are “an economic barrier to access of library materials and services,” and urges libraries to curtail the practice.
“The Norwalk Public Library has so much to offer physically and digitally. We want all of our residents, regardless of socioeconomic status, to have full access for enjoyment and/or life improvement. We hope the barrier lift will bring back old patrons and bring in new ones, while our loyal patrons also reap the benefits.” Harris said in the release. “The COVID pandemic underscored inequities within communities across the country and I am very pleased to work with a city and a board that make library access to all a priority by removing barriers that prevent people from using the library.”
Other Connecticut libraries where fines have been stopped are in Stamford, Shelton, West Haven, Wallingford, Branford, Westbrook, Noank, and Mystic. Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City’s public libraries are also fine free.
Noting in the news release that Norwalk Library patrons will still be billed for materials not returned, Library Board President Alex Knopp said, “We adopted the new ‘fine free policy’ to remove a financial obstacle to the widest possible use of the Library’s excellent resources by Norwalk residents while making sure that our policy of requiring the replacement of lost books, computers and other materials remains in place.”
“Becoming ‘fine free’ is a sound policy which I fully support,” Mayor Harry Rilling said in the release. “Libraries are a place of learning, exploration, and community. Everyone should feel welcome at our public libraries. I encourage all of our residents to sign up for a Norwalk library card as it is a true gem and resource for our community.”