LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Saying it would eliminate a barrier for Louisvillians, Mayor Greg Fischer announced that ending library late fees is part of his proposed Fiscal Year 2022 budget.

What You Need To Know

  • The city stopped collecting library late fees during the pandemic

  • The mayor announced plans Thursday to make the change permanent as part of his proposed FY 2022 budget

  • The director of the Louisville Free Public Library said the fines account for only about 1% of the budget, but they can be obstacles for families

  • Other libraries in Kentucky and around the country have eliminated overdue fines, according to the LFPL  

"Libraries around the country have eliminated overdue fines, finding that they don’t really impact when people return materials, and that eliminating overdue fines doesn’t lead to more unreturned materials," Fischer said in a budget address to Metro Council Thursday. "Our young people and communities of color are hurt the most by these fines, with the consequence of being left unable to utilize critical library resources."

The city stopped collecting fines during the pandemic, but this proposed change would be permanent, he said. 

Fines for overdue and lost books generate about $225,000 a year or about 1 percent of the library budget, according to Lee Burchfield, director of the Louisville Free Public Library. 

About 50,000 people owe the library more than $10, he said.

"I think this is a great idea," he said. “Those 50,000 people, to the extent that they don’t have the money to pay those fines, which we’re particularly aware right now could be a problem for a lot of folks given the economic impact of COVID, we think this is going to get a lot of those people back into the library and allow them to use our collections again."

The change in policy for fines is happening in other libraries in Kentucky and across the country, Burchfield told Spectrum News. 

​"What (fines) really do is penalize people who can’t afford to pay the fines and cut them off from access to services and that’s why it’s really important for us, particularly now, to make this change," he said.

Kimberly Witherspoon, who was exploring books at the library with her 4-year-old granddaughter London on Friday, supported the idea.

"I think that's a wonderful idea because even if they still have the books, they're still able to read the books if they don't pay the fines," she said.