The Scarborough Public Library is no longer collecting fines on overdue books. Courtesy photo

SCARBOROUGH — The Scarborough Public Library will no longer collect late fees for materials and all outstanding fines were to be forgiven effective April 1.

“The Board of Trustees unanimously endorsed the proposal to eliminate library fines. This was an effort to make the library as accessible as possible to all residents,” Bill Donovan, chair of the Board of Trustees of Scarborough Public Library, said.

Public libraries across the country are joining a growing movement inspired by the American Library Association, which resolved that monetary library fines are a form of social inequity. The timing of this historic announcement coincides with National Library Week, Sunday, April 4 to Saturday, April 10. The 2021 theme for National Library Week is Welcome to Your Library. Scarborough Public Library welcomes all town residents to the Library. The staff particularly welcomes those patrons and community members back to the Library who have been kept away by COVID-19 or accrued fines. Fines will be waived for all items returned in good condition. The Library will still expect payment for lost or damaged materials.

The true purpose of the public library is to share resources with everyone regardless of their needs or means. Technology and the features of the SPL’s circulation system have provided opportunities for borrowers to manage some aspects of their borrowing records, renew materials, and receive reminders—all actions that minimize fines. It has also created a digital divide for those who do not have access to or know how to use these features. The Scarborough Public Library is intent on bridging that divide by continuing to offer phone reminders and printed receipts. Eliminating fines for materials held beyond the due date bridges this divide even further.

Louise Capizzo, Youth Services manager, refers to the Policy of Service to Children at the Scarborough Public Library, which states that “every child should have available a free public library which provides materials, resources, and reader guidance to meeting informational, educational, and recreational needs.” Capizzo stated that “Providing materials without the fear of fines will remove barriers for those who may find it challenging to afford fines — especially children.”

Nancy Crowell, who has served as Scarborough’s Library director for more than four decades, said, “The public library concept is a remarkable model based on trust, sharing, respect, and equity. I know of no similar example in our society. The reason this works is because we have shared ownership of the resources. It is a version of the ‘golden rule:’ if you are careful with the book, and return it on time, then I will be careful too and get the item back so someone else can use and enjoy it. We expect a return of long overdue materials as people learn of the fine amnesty.”

The Scarborough Public Library may lose some income with this new policy. The fine portion of its income has already been reduced as users can now renew their own items and as electronic resources have become a larger segment of circulation. The budget absorbed the shortfall this year when fines were waived during the Library’s COVID service response. Other libraries, already “fine-free,” have found that grateful users make contributions which help to offset an income reduction and they have realized savings in the staff time spent collecting and managing the funds each day.

In celebration of National Library Week, April 4 through April 10, the staff of the Scarborough Public Library will be actively welcoming back patrons and encouraging them to browse the collection in person and online. There are many new services that have emerged because of or during the pandemic — all of which are available with a Scarborough Library Card. Visit to sign up for its new bi-monthly newsletter or one of many newsletters designed to inspire next reads, to explore virtual program offerings, or to access the Minerva catalog and reserve books and materials. Patrons with fines greater than $5 should stop by or call 883-4723, option 2 to request fine amnesty. The Library is open for 15-minute browsing, curbside pickup, and 30-minute computer appointments: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 10 a.m. 5 p.m., Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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