Rochester, MN (KROC-AM News) - It has been nearly one year since the Rochester Public Library went fine free, and RPL is seeing the outcomes they intended to see.

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Back in June of 2020, the Library Board voted to remove overdue fees, citing greater and more equitable access. The move came during the first few months of the pandemic when many families were unsure about their financial futures.

According to a news release from the Rochester Public Library, 46% of respondents in a recent survey said that eliminating fines increased access to materials during the pandemic, and for individuals experiencing financial stress, the impact was much greater.

“We found that for those who reported feeling financially stressed, going fine free improved their access to library materials,” said Karen Lemke, Head of Marketing and Community Engagement.

The fine-free initiative was intended to increase library access, according to Lemke.

“We’ve previously hypothesized that having overdue fees presented a barrier to individuals who had a greater need for library resources. This survey indicates that removing fines did, in fact, help those who really needed it," Lemke said.

The news release said that 17% of respondents reported feeling financially stressed, and out of that group, 76% said the fine-free initiative reduced their financial stress and 72% said it helped them or their families access the materials they needed during the pandemic.

“This is the first time we have data to show how financial stress and the removal of overdue fines affects library access,” Lemke said.

Before going fine-free, the local library held a couple of "fine forgiveness" events in recent years that resulted in the return of hundreds of items that were previously considered lost. RPL said it also saw an increase in the number of people signing up for library cards and the number of items being checked out by library patrons.

You can see the results of the survey on RPL's website.

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