Denver Public Library proposes going fine free in 2019

As part of Mayor Michael B. Hancock’s proposed 2019 spending plan to Denver City Council, the Denver Public Library is proposing the elimination of overdue fines for customers beginning January 2019. While the budgetary ramifications of this plan have been tentatively approved by the Mayor and the Budget Management Office, the full plan must be approved by City Council and the Denver Public Library Commission this fall.

The decision to seek approval for eliminating fines follows a national trend by public libraries to eliminate fines as a way of increasing customer interaction with library materials and services. Research shows that the removal of overdue fines can have a dramatic effect of bringing back customers. Similar fine elimination programs have been successfully implemented in other U.S. cities recently, including Salt Lake City and Baltimore.

“Eliminating overdue fines is paramount to providing equitable access for all customers,” said City Librarian Michelle Jeske. “Too often, fines penalize the most vulnerable families and individuals who can least afford them; we want to reverse this trend and get community members back into our buildings to use materials that enhance their quality of life and education.”

To date, revenue from overdue materials fines is deposited into the City’s General Fund; the Denver Public Library does not receive fine revenue for library services. In 2017, fine revenue accounted for $110,339 in citywide revenue.

To help keep items circulating in a timely manner, the library will suspend customer accounts if an item is long overdue. The library will continue to charge customers replacement fees for items that are lost or damaged.  

“Research does not support the notion that fines result in significant improvement in the return of materials,” Jeske said. “It is important for us focus our efforts on creating value for customers in the form of access and programs and we can utilize staff time more efficiently by eliminating fines.”

The Denver Public Library will launch a public information campaign in early 2019 to inform customers and the community about the change.



Written by ChrisH on September 14, 2018


Anonymous on September 14, 2018


Thank you!!!!!

Tracy Ann Spencer on September 14, 2018


I will be so grateful for forgiveness of fines at the library 2019... I know this will bring me back... As I have some overdue fines that went to be too much as I was away for a bit unexpected... On a limited income I couldn't keep up w my fines and bills... Having a new slate for a new life ❤

JM Fay on September 15, 2018


As a library customer for many years; those fines are a way to ensure people return items in a timely fashion. If people can get to a library to take an item out; why cant they get to one to return the same item?

We are low income so we understand costs and fines and if we cant get to the library; we dont take out the item.

How much in fines / overdue items does one need to accumulate to get your account suspended? ALD is $10 which is alot for non taxpayers to be able to accumulate before they get their priviledges taken away.

CP on September 15, 2018


Has the library considered lowering fees instead and slightly extending the grace period? There would still be a reasonable incentive to return checked out items in a timely manner.

Automatic renewal as a courtesy has already helped a lot to ease the burden of fines and in that way someone waiting for the material is not denied as the renewal won't go through if there is a queue for that item. I especially appreciate this feature.

Ben on September 29, 2018


Those delinquents will now return materials even later. Won't suspending patrons' accounts interfere with "equitable access"? But then in the interest of "economic justice" the liberals will probably forego suspensions and replacement costs, and libraries will be much worse.

ChrisH on October 1, 2018


Fines charged to customer accounts when items are returned or renewed late have not proven to be an effective incentive to return materials on time. Instead they create a financial burden that can be a barrier to continued library use—even though the items are back at the library. Currently, Denver Public Library accounts are blocked from checkout when the account balance reaches $5. Prior to 2014, accounts were blocked at $10, an amount many found too high to resolve.  Whether blocked at $5 or $10, many customers, unable to pay fines accrued on items that were returned late, simply stop using the library.  Under our new model, accounts will be blocked from checkout based on the existence of overdue items, not based on the balance owed. In this model, borrowing privileges are reinstated when the items are returned without punitive fines being levied.


Please note, however, that borrowers will be billed replacement fees for lost/damaged items and may be referred for collection action for unpaid balances.