Tuesday, June 28, 2022

The Rutherford County Library System Board of Directors approved a motion to eliminate overdue fines for library card holders as of July 1, 2022, joining hundreds of public libraries around the United States in tearing down barriers to access.

For years, Rutherford County Library System (RCLS) staff have been talking about ways to make our libraries more accessible to everyone in our service area. In 2019, management team members began researching the topic, gathering and analyzing data, speaking with both staff and patrons. With the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, plans to move forward were put on hold, while short-term efforts were implemented to alleviate patron’s fines during the weeks of lockdown.

During Fine Free December, staff received many positive words of feedback, including this tearful comment from an international student at MTSU, who gets books for herself and her child: “This was so kind, so helpful.” Another patron emailed, saying: “I saw the sign outside the library about the forgiveness during December. What a great gift this is! I am very thankful for the library system and the way the people who work there are serving my family and the community. We love the library!”

Based on research, user-friendly policies bring more community members into the library, especially those from low-income populations who need libraries the most. Many parents and caregivers share that fine-free libraries enable them to use the services without fear of being charged for late items. Going fine free is a win-win for patrons and staff as interactions are much more pleasant overall.

Director of Libraries Rita Shacklett says, “The purpose of the public library is to provide free and open access to materials and services. Eliminating late fees enables us to better achieve that goal and reach those who have been apprehensive about getting a library card due to the possibility of fines.”

While RCLS e-materials, like eBooks, e-audio, and digital magazines have never accrued fines, there will now be no late charges on books, music, videos, and other media. Patrons are still responsible for lost/damaged materials and fees (such as cost of data usage for hotspots) and borrowing privileges will be blocked until the item(s) are returned or paid for.  Fines will be waived when materials are returned, so now is the time to get them back to the library and start with a clean slate! Hotspot and referral fees cannot be waived.

RCLS Board Chair Rollie Holden shares, "I am grateful for the thoughtful approach the Board used to come to this decision. Our board and staff were able to create a path to allow our system to become fine free in a fiscally responsible manner. Hopefully this will encourage more of our patrons, the citizens of this community, to use our wonderful libraries."

Linebaugh Public Library is located at 105 W. Vine St. in Murfreesboro. Smyrna Public Library is located at 400 Enon Springs Rd. West in Smyrna. Eagleville Bicentennial Public Library is located at 317 Hwy 99E in Eagleville. MGL Library is located inside Patterson Park Community Center at 521 Mercury Blvd. in Murfreesboro. The Technology Engagement Center is located at 306 Minerva Drive in Murfreesboro. The Historical Research Center (HRC) is located at 435 Rice Street in Murfreesboro. Explore, Imagine, Engage through RCLS. For more information, call 615-893-4131 or visit rclstn.org.

For more about what this means for our patrons, click HERE.