After dropping late fees, St. Paul libraries see a boost

The elimination of library fines has led to a boost in circulation in St. Paul.

ST. PAUL -- Nine months in, the Saint Paul Public Library's fine-free experiment appears to be thriving. 

"By every measure we had hoped for," library director Catherine Penkert said, "it is working."

Case in point: More than 65,000 items have been checked out this year by people with cards that were previously blocked due to late fees, according to Penkert. Circulation in the second quarter of 2019 also increased across the board compared to the same time period a year ago -- particularly in branches that serve lower-income areas like Rondo (18.4 percent) and Arlington Hills (19.3 percent). Plus, new library card registration increased 8.2 percent, reversing steady downward trends seen in the past.