Philly is talking about getting rid of library late fees. They’re not alone | Monday Morning Coffee

October 7, 2019 7:21 am

Good Monday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
Late last week, Philadelphia City Council passed a nonbinding resolution exploring whether to eliminate all late fees and debts at the Free Library of Philadelphia. As our partners at The Philadelphia Tribune reported, the measure, sponsored by Councilwoman Cherelle Parker, is largely symbolic, since  the library’s board of trustees would ultimately make the decision whether to scrap fines.

But as CityLab reports, Parker’s measure comes amid a broader national conversation on whether overdue late fees and library fines, the bane of every errant schoolkid, have outlived their usefulness. One big city, Chicago, has already gone there. Starting later this month, Windy City libraries will no longer collect late fees. And the city is wiping out outstanding fines — which is welcome news to more than 343,000 borrowers who owe $10 in unpaid fees, and have had their privileges revoked, CityLab’s Linda Poon writes.

The reason, according to CityLab, is simply one of equity: The people who owe fines tend to be those who can least afford to lose borrowing privileges: People of color and those living in poverty.

“The decision to remove fines is a growing nationwide movement. Already, dozens of U.S. libraries have fully or partially eliminated overdue fines (usually for teens and children), according to a “fine-free” map from the Urban Libraries Council (ULC),” Poon wrote. “Just this year, public libraries in cities like Phoenix, Dallas, and Palm Beach, Florida, have changed their policy, and Curtis RogersULC’s communications director, expects more libraries and cities to follow suit.”

(Source: CityLab)

“Overdue fines are not distinguishing between people who are responsible and who are not,” Rogers told CityLab. “They’re distinguishing between people who can and cannot use money to overcome a common oversight.”

(Source: CityLab)

“How many readers, young readers, families does [the library] lose because people get discouraged when they know they can’t afford to pay those fines?” Philadelphia’s Parker asked last week, voicing a similar concern. City Council is expected to hold a hearing on her measure before its final session on Dec. 12, the Tribune’s Michael D’Onofrio wrote.

But as CityLab notes, fine-free approaches are still the exception, rather than the rule:

“A majority of public libraries do still charge late fees—some 92 percent, according to a 2017 survey in Library Journal. And Rogers emphasizes going fine-free is not necessarily the “one single solution” for all systems. There are multiple ways libraries can break down barriers of access. Some libraries designate “amnesty” days, where all late fees are waived if residents return the overdue items. Others provide alternatives, asking for food donations or volunteer time in place of money.”Kaitlyn Foti, a spokeswoman for the Free Library of Philadelphia, told the Tribune that library and city officials have been investigating the logistics of implementing a fine-free system for the past year.

“We have been in conversation with the Managing Director [Brian Abernathy] and Mayor’s Office about these matters, and welcome the conversation with City Council to bring more people to the table discussing this possibility,” Foti told the Tribune.

WikiMedia Commons

Our Stuff.
From the Philadelphia Tribunehere’s an important look at the success rate of some of the private partnerships entered into by cash-strapped Cheyney University.

Today is the deadline to register to vote in the November general election, Stephen Caruso has what you need to know.

From Sunday’s Estrella-Capital:
Por Sarah Anne HughesLos Pensilvanias con condenas menores de cannabis pueden solicitar un indulto acelerado. Y por Stephen Caruso: “Nunca debería un niño estar encerrado:” Miembros de Atención Sanitaria SEIU quieren que los centros de detención en Berks County sean clausurados.

On our Commentary Page, opinion regular Dick Polman sums up President Donald Trump’s essential problem with the Ukraine story: He can no longer control the narrative.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Sestak (Image via Flickr Commons)

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Sestak is reprising his famous walk — this time it’s across New Hampshire, in search of his party’s nomination. The Inquirer has the story.
Four teenagers spent 15 months in jail ‘for a Pittsburgh crime they didn’t commit,’ the Post-Gazette reports.
The state Senate is eyeing legislation that would prevent the closing of two centers for people with intellectual disabilities, the Times-Leader reports.
The Morning Call has your rundown of the Lehigh Valley intersections and interchanges where you’re most likely to get into a crash.

Here’s your #Harrisburg Instagram of the Day:

In one of about a billion profiles published in the last week, WHYY-FM parachutes into the 7th Congressional District, for a look at the swing seat held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Susan Wild.
It’s getting awfully crowded in the race for Lebanon County’s vacant 48th Senate District seat. WITF-FM has the latest.
PoliticsPA has last week’s winners and losers in state politics.
Congressional impeachment investigators are asking for Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s travel records, Roll Call reports.

What Goes On.
The Special Education Funding Commission takes its show on the road, holding a 1 p.m. hearing at the Manheim Township school district in Lancaster County. The House Democratic Policy Committee legs it to Pittsburgh for a 2 p.m. hearing at the Baldwin Borough building.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out to Capital-Star opinion contributor Mark O’Keefe, who celebrates today. Congrats and enjoy the day, sir. Very belated, but no less sincere, best wishes also goes out to Capital-Star Staff Reporter Elizabeth Hardison.

Heavy Rotation.
If we’re going to start a new working week, we might as well start it with some new music from Elbow. Here’s the Mancunian band’s latest single, it’s ‘White Noise, White Heat,’ from the new LP ‘Giants of All Sizes.’

Monday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.
Fresh off Saturday night’s OT win against the dread Washington Capitals, our beloved Carolina Hurricanes picked up another OT win, beating Tampa 4-3 on Sunday, taking the team to a 3-0 record. It’s the best start since the mid-1990s, when the team played in Hartford.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.