What happened when New York Public Libraries eliminated overdue fines last fall? Exactly what always happens when libraries go fine free:
A wave of returned overdue materials came crashing in, accompanied by a healthy increase (between 9 and 15 percent, depending on the borough) of returning visitors.
Since last fall, more than 21,000 overdue or lost items have been returned in Manhattan, some so old that they were no longer in the library’s system. About 51,000 items were returned in Brooklyn between Oct. 6 through the end of February. And more than 16,000 were returned in Queens.
Any library that hasn’t eliminated overdue fees by now is either so strapped for cash that they can’t survive without the (negligible) revenue fines provide—or someone in charge (usually on the board of trustees) has dug in their heels against the mission of libraries. Either way they’ve got some explaining to do.