“I talk about broken windows in the article because I wanted to figure out what is the policing strategy that’s being used to turn homeless people into a canary in a coal mine of crime. So you have William Bratten, who is the police chief who moves from New York to Los Angeles and back to New York as the proponent of this policy that we call ‘broken windows’ which we are still living with to this day. And under this view of policing, it doesn’t matter what the crime rate is. It matters if basically rich, white residents feel safe. And when we use police to do that, we give an incredible amount of discretion to police officers, and we’re policing people and places, as [Michael] Bloomberg says, rather than events or incidents. And so I think it is very important that we situate the rise in policing of unhoused people in this broader project of broken windows policing that cities engage in, that is essentially criminalizing the poor.”
In announcing the new policy, the library said its board of trustees “is dedicated to creating a library that is more open, equitable and understanding of our community,” and explained that “eliminating fines for overdue materials means more people in our community have greater access to the Library’s vital materials, resources and services.”
“The Charlotte Mecklenburg Library intends to soon stop fining patrons for overdue books, joining a growing national trend to support some of the most vulnerable library patrons.”
“What’s important is that people use their libraries. We want to make sure that our community has access to the materials and services we provide,” said a statement from the BCLS. “Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have not charged any overdue fines so patrons had one less thing to worry about, so we are already positioned to join the many other libraries across the state who are fine free. Fines account for less than one-half of one percent of our revenues.”
“While libraries all over the country have followed suit on eliminating fines, [Executive Director] Jones said she believes San Diego is the only library system that has a social equity component to its matching funds policy.”
A year later, circulation has grown 1.8% citywide, with some branches seeing double-digit increases.
To date, Chicago Public Library (CPL) is the largest library system in the country to go fine-free. Starting October 1, CPL will eliminate overdue fines on all CPL-owned items currently in circulation, which it said will remove barriers to basic library access, especially for youth and low-income patrons.
“We’re moving away from a punishment model to a more positive model,” said Carla Powers, Duluth Public Library manager. “The public library is not only for people who can always remember to return things. It’s not only for people who have the capacity to pay an overdue fine.”
Howard County Library System (HCLS) is offering an interactive exhibit called, Undesign the Redline. “This exhibit explores the history of structural racism and classism, how these designs compounded each other from redlining maps until today, and how we can come together to undesign these systems with intentionality.”
“Taking food away from a child in front of their peers, or limiting their access to school activities or athletics over meal debt, is downright wrong — not to mention mean,” said Cassellius.