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To celebrate 150th anniversary, Cleveland Public Library announces it will abolish overdue fines

Starting in July, the library system will go fine-free.

Overdue fines will soon be a thing of the past for Cleveland Public Library patrons.

Starting in July, the 28-branch library system will eliminate fines for overdue books and materials, Executive Director Felton Thomas announced today during his State of the Library speech at The City Club.

The announcement, which was received with cheers by more than 100 City Club guests, doesn’t mean it’s OK for library patrons to borrow materials and never bring them back, Thomas cautioned.

"We want to remove barriers, not block people from accessing the library. We want to connect people to knowledge and ideas, not stand in their way. Thank you to our board of trustees for making this important step for the community," Thomas said during his remarks, which kicked off a year of activities celebrating the Cleveland Public Library's 150th anniversary. 

The library will follow up on overdue items, sending letters to patrons and asking them to return the missing books and materials.  And if an item is lost for good, patrons will be asked to reimburse the library.

But the change is being made in the hope that it will help the library system reestablish a relationship with people who may have felt they weren’t welcome, Thomas said.

"We want to remove barriers, not block people from accessing the library. We want to connect people to knowledge and ideas, not stand in their way. Thank you to our board of trustees for making this important step for the community," he said.

Library Trustee Alice Butts said that in her experience, it’s not uncommon to see parents refusing to bring their children to the library because of fines owed. “Too many people are saying, 'We can't come back to the library,'" she said. Eliminating fines will hopefully put an end to that kind of thinking.

During the State of the Library speech, Thomas also unveiled a year of plans for celebrating the library’s 150th anniversary. Highlights include a “World of Puppets: From Stage to Screen” exhibit opening March 23, a street festival in front of the Main Library on July 27, and a Book Ball Gala on Nov. 16.