Johnson Public Library Goes “Fine-Free”!

The Trustees of the Johnson Public Library (JPL) voted to make the Library “Fine-Free” beginning on July 1, 2019. This pilot program will run through the end of 2019, and it will be extended in perpetuity if successful.

What exactly does that mean and how will it work?

JPL items will no longer accrue fines regardless of who borrows them, except for special collections such as hotspots, Kindles, and museum passes.

  • JPL cardholders can visit JPL’s circulation desk to have existing fines for JPL items waived. 
  • JPL cardholders are still responsible for fines on non-JPL items.  Fines can accrue from items borrowed in person at other BCCLS libraries, as well as items borrowed at JPL that were requested from another BCCLS library. These items will accrue fines according to the policy of the owning library.
  • JPL Cardholders are still responsible for replacement costs for damaged and lost items.
  • JPL Cardholders will not be able to check out items if:
    1. They owe a replacement cost for a damaged or lost item
    2. They owe over $10 in fines
    3. They have not yet returned an overdue item*

*JPL Cardholders can renew overdue items if those items are eligible for renewal. If the overdue items are not eligible for renewal, patrons will need to return the items before they can borrow any additional materials.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why is the library eliminating fines?

A: The Director and Trustees agree with the American Library Association that charging fines is an equity issue. Fines disproportionately affect children and individuals with low or fixed incomes.  

Click here to read the ALA’s official statement regarding fines.

JPL’s mission is to make library materials and resources accessible to as many people as possible.  By eliminating fines, JPL is removing one barrier to expand access to services for the Hackensack community.  JPL looks forward to welcoming back over 1,700 people whose cards have been blocked by overdue fees – over a third of them kids and teens.


Q: Doesn’t this mean that people will borrow items and never return them?

A: Other libraries that have gone “fine-free” have found that this is not the case.  In fact, sometimes formerly active library users stop using the library when faced with a fine they cannot pay, or feel too embarrassed about owing fines to come back to the library. 


Q: Will existing fines be waived for non-JPL cardholders?

A: No. 


Q: Doesn’t the library need the income from fines and fees to operate?

A: Although fines and fees are incorporated into the library’s operating budget, they account for a very, very small amount (less than half of one percent), and they are never a guarantee.  By not collecting fines, library staff time can be redirected to support other library services.


Q: Will JPL Cardholders still have to pay for lost or damaged books?

A: Yes. The library will charge cardholders for books that are returned damaged or overdue for more than 90 days.