St. Paul libraries see a boost after going fine-free

A year later, circulation has grown 1.8% citywide, with some branches seeing double-digit increases.


Carlos Espitia, branch manager and librarian at St. Paul’s Riverview Library, said the end of fines for overdue books has brought many patrons back to the library.

Espitia, who worked for the Dakota County libraries before coming to St. Paul in August, said now that the pressure to pay is gone, there’s a new comfort level between library patrons and staff.

“There’s no real polite way to tell somebody that they owe you money,” Espitia said. “I think it makes your conversations and your insights with people a lot more genuine when you’re not forcing them to pay you.”

Since the fine-free policy went into effect last January, circulation has grown by 1.8% at libraries citywide, a reversal from the downward trend over the past 10 years, said St. Paul Public Library Director Catherine Penkert.