Pioneer Press: Unblocking cards boosted library use by double digits at Dayton’s Bluff, Arlington Hills, but true test will be this summer


Originally published on June 9, 2019

Ditching library fines this winter resulted in the first circulation boost for the St. Paul Public Library system in years. Even library card registrations are up — while the number of overdue days has held fairly steady.

The true test, however, may come in the summer months, when teens and families tend to visit libraries in droves.

In January, the St. Paul Public Library canceled all late fines and unblocked 42,000 library cards, joining a small but notable wave of library systems, opens a new window around the country that have abandoned the time-honored tradition of penalizing patrons who return books past their due date.

“The library inherently is not a punitive place,” said Kim Horton, a spokeswoman for the Friends of the St. Paul Public Library.

Supporters called the decision an important step toward making a public system more inviting to low-income families. Critics worried about the loss of $215,000 in library revenue, opens a new window and predicted that books, films and music would be returned later than ever, if at all.