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Huntsville-Madison County Libraries now 'fine-free'

Library overdue fines are a thing of the past. HMCPL is the first large library system in Alabama to go fine free.
Credit: TEGNA

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — If the fear of overdue fees keeps you from using the library, this is your lucky day.

As of May 23, 2022, Huntsville-Madison County Public Libraries are now "fine free". Late returning your book? Don't worry. You won't have to hunt down nickels and dimes for overdue fees.

The move is motivated in part by the Alabama Literacy Act, a plan to improve reading skills of kindergarten through third-grade students.

But everyone benefits.

“We are proud to join the hundreds of libraries nationwide who are ensuring open access to library materials by going fine-free,” said Cindy Hewitt, Executive Director of HMCPL. “It is important that the children in our community are able to access books without the threat of overdue fines so they have an opportunity to increase their literacy levels.”

HMCPL is the first large library system in Alabama to go fine-free. Its spokesperson says the decision was a result of research gathered within HMCPL’s system and analysis by other library systems that have already gone fine-free.

How will this affect library budgets?

The library says that the elimination of fines will not have a heavy impact on the library’s revenue as overdue fines make up less than 1% of HMCPL’s income. 

And if you have a fine? It's forgiven. There are currently over 22,000 accounts that are blocked due to fines. You'll still get overdue notices, though, and you'll still have to pay for lost books. Currently, books can be renewed up to four times if there is no hold on them (someone else waiting for the book).

“The public library is an essential community asset tasked with meeting the information needs of all persons in the community,” said Hewitt. “By becoming a fine-free library, HMCPL will welcome back customers, gain new customers, as well as realign staff time towards meeting this mission moving forward.”

HMCPL customers will still receive overdue notices and will be charged for lost items. For more information on fine-free, visit hmcpl.org/finefree.

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