The Dauphin County Library System has gone “fine-free,’’ extending a no-late-fee policy enacted at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and joining libraries across the country to end a practice that was a barrier to access.

To avoid landing in the “overdue” category, borrowers can receive five renewals on an item if there are no hold requests from other members. Also, members can return found items up to a year after the billing date to have replacement charges waived.

As part of the “fine-free” policy, the library has new measures to encourage responsible borrowing.

If a member has more than what would have amounted to $10 in fines, they can no longer: 

  • Check out materials or borrow laptops 
  • Access Hoopla (which gives access to e-book, e-audio book, and e-music titles) 
  • Reserve library meeting rooms 


Additionally, if an item is not returned within 48 days from the due date, members receive a bill and are assessed a replacement fee. The account will be forwarded to a collection agency for those with unpaid balances of $45 or more. 

“Our No. 1 mission is to serve our community by connecting people with the knowledge and resources they need,” said Karen Cullings, library system executive director. “Unfortunately, libraries have found that late fees and fines end up being roadblocks to those who need our services the most.”

For example, Cullings said, the Memphis Public Library went fine-free three years ago after research showed that family households making less than $25,000 held 33% of the unpaid fines.

Additionally, evidence shows that eliminating fines has increased library card adoption and usage, according to the American Library Association.

While late fees and fines are not a large part of the library’s budget, Cullings said they are hoping the community will donate to help support the new policy. Supporters can help “pay it forward” by donating at any of the county’s eight library locations or at

“We hope that many in the community will help us ease the burden on those who may have overdue books but fear returning to the library because they can’t pay the fines,” Cullings said. “Members who return an item late and no longer have to pay a fine can ‘pay it forward’ by donating to help us continue the policy.’’ 

The fine-free policy aims to remove barriers to access while encouraging members to use library resources responsibly, Cullings said.

“From helping children learn to read to assisting adults looking to find their next job or go back to school, we are committed to serving the community, and we believe going ‘fine-free’ underscores that commitment.’’ 

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