We're going fine free!

We’re going fine free! Beginning in August, 2020, Oshkosh Public Library discontinued charging fines for most overdue materials. Exceptions include materials from some Winnefox libraries and items checked out through Interlibrary Loan.

By eliminating most fines on a permanent basis, the library is welcoming back the thousands of cardholders who are unable to take full advantage of everything the library has to offer.  

“It removes a significant barrier to library use during especially difficult times,” said Board of Trustees President Christine Melms-Simon. “And it creates a more inclusive library that is better positioned to serve the entire Oshkosh community.”

Normally, a fine total of five dollars places a block on patrons’ library cards. Fines must be paid down to below that amount to check out materials (including digital resources such as Hoopla and Overdrive) or submit an interlibrary loan request.

Please continue to check this page and our social media accounts for the latest information. Fees will continue to be charged for the replacement of lost or damaged materials; fines will be charged for overdue materials borrowed from other libraries that assess them.

This initiative comes after a year of research on the role of fines and studying data from public libraries who have already eliminated fines. Evidence shows library fines disproportionately impact society’s most vulnerable, such as those in low-income situations and seniors on fixed incomes.    

“Many American public libraries have already recognized that overdue fines are unjustly discriminatory and ineffective as incentives for the return of library materials,” said Library Director Jeff Gilderson-Duwe. “Fines create barriers to use of public library collections for economically challenged children and their families; and they damage relations between library workers and patrons by shifting the focus from service to enforcement. Elimination of fines for overdue materials has very quickly become a ‘best practice’ for modern public libraries.” 

Fines make up less than 1 percent of the library’s budget. The library had collected about 20 percent of this year’s estimated $29,000 in fine revenues when COVID-19 forced the library to close in mid-March.  

In 2019 the American Library Association passed a resolution citing mounting evidence that eliminating fines increases library card adoption and library use. The resolution also recognized fines as a form of “social inequity” and urged libraries to actively “move toward eliminating them.”   

“In a time of uncertainty, this is good news for our community,” said Gilderson-Duwe. “We look forward to welcoming back our patrons and materials."

See our FAQ for more information.