Mayor Kenney endorses plan to eliminate library fines

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A movement is growing to eliminate overdue book fines from the Philadelphia library system, and the idea recently got a high-level endorsement.

Library trustees say they've been researching the feasibility of eliminating fines for more than a year. Councilwoman Cherelle Parker turned up the heat last month, with a resolution to hold hearings on the idea.

"Now is the time for Philadelphia's free libraries to go fine-free and eliminate the debt," Parker proposed.

She got support last week from Mayor Jim Kenney, who called on the trustees to do away with fines at their next meeting in December.

"We found in other cities that eliminated them that people returned stuff that they hadn't returned in years," Kenney said. "We have a lot of poor people in the city who, when fines accumulate, will refuse to go into the library because they're afraid and we don't get material returned. They hold onto it for years."

Parker cited results of a similar measure in Chicago. "In just the first month of implementation," she said, "their decision to eliminate fines has triggered a 240 percent increase in book returns."

The fines also produce revenue for the system but Parker says it's less than one percent of the budget. The hearing she requested is scheduled for Wednesday. 

The library trustees issued a statement saying they've been studying it for more than a year and they will consider it at the December meeting.