Norwalk, CT – 2022 is here and new years brings new things. The Norwalk Public Library is excited to announce that as of January 3, 2022, it will be fully fine free. NPL was partially ‘fine free’ beginning last June with children’s cards as a pilot after Library Director, Sherelle Harris, shared with the Library Board the percentage of children receiving free and reduced lunches in Norwalk. The board agreed to being totally fine free during its November meeting.
“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,” said NPL Board President Alex Knopp.
“Becoming ‘fine free’ is a sound policy which I fully support. 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,” said Norwalk Mayor Harry W. Rilling.
According to Tika Viteri’s September 24, 2021 article in Book Riot, “Libraries have been collecting fines since at least the late 1800s…” and “research on going fine-free has been published since as far back as the 1970s.” The American Library Association solidified its commitment with a resolution on monetary library fines as a form of social inequity during its 2019 Midwinter meeting. The resolution can be summed up in its opening statement: “monetary fines present an economic barrier to access of library materials and services”.
“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,” said Library Director Harris.
This is a permanent policy and not just in place during the COVID-19 public health emergency as with some other libraries. Norwalk joins the totally ‘fine free’ ranks of big city libraries like Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and eight library’s in Connecticut: Blackstone Memorial (Branford), Ferguson (Stamford), Mystic Noank, Plumb Memorial (Shelton), Wallingford, Westbrook, and West Haven. Farmington Libraries and Mark Twain (Redding) are looking forward to joining the ranks.
It is important to note that while fines will not be collected at NPL, patrons will be billed for lost material that is not returned.
“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.
There is an added bonus for Norwalk residents. All of their late fees will be automatically waived to give them a fresh start in 2022.