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Gloucester library eliminates overdue fines on most books

Gloucester’s Sawyer Free Library just became a little more “free.” The library recently eliminated fines for returning most of its books and other materials after their due dates.

Officials said the new policy was prompted by a recognition that for some people, overdue fines are not simply an inconvenience but a financial barrier to using the library. Sawyer joins a growing number of libraries across the country that have eliminated most overdue fines.

“Going largely fine-free is just another way we’re committed to leveling opportunities for everyone,” Deborah Kelsey, the library’s director said in a statement. “We want to connect people to knowledge and ideas, not stand in the way. The library has also eliminated people’s existing overdue account balances, so everyone can start fresh.”


With the new policy, the library also has made changes to its circulation policy aimed at making it more user-friendly. With some exceptions, all materials will now be automatically renewed for up to 12 weeks, or five two-week periods.

Borrowers will be notified by e-mail when items are automatically renewed or must be returned. Materials not returned within 12 weeks will be considered lost and accrue a replacement fee. Kelsey said that with all the changes, “It is our hope that it will now be easier than ever to borrow materials and enjoy the library.”

Exceptions to the new rules include that “Express Collection” or high-demand, best-selling books will continue to circulate for seven days with no renewals and a 20 cents a day late fine; and museum passes will still circulate for one day with no renewals and $1 a day fine.

John Laidler can be reached at