CPL Goes Fine Free


Fine Free Graphics

The Cambridge Public Library has gone fine free!

The Cambridge Public Library no longer charges fines for late returns or renewals of library materials, ensuring that everyone in the community has equitable access to library books and materials. This week the Library also cleared past overdue fines and past bills for lost or damaged Cambridge-owned children’s and young adult materials from library accounts to welcome patrons back with a fresh start.

The Library has long been fine free for children's and young adult materials and was temporarily fine free for all checkouts while library buildings were closed during the pandemic. The new initiative extends the fine free policy to late adult materials and offers forgiveness for lost or damaged Cambridge-owned children's and young adult materials.

“Being fine free will help eliminate barriers and improve access to the amazing materials and services that our Libraries offer. Vice Mayor Mallon and I worked with Library staff to end the use of library fines because they serve as a hurdle for low-income families and individuals and have no impact on the return rate of materials,” said Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui. “I am thrilled that we are joining a national movement to go fine-free and that we're taking this important and inclusive step to make our Libraries more accessible.”

Research has shown that low-income families identify fines as a barrier to their use of libraries. There is no significant difference in overdue rates between libraries that charge fines and those that do not. Fines and fees also disproportionately impact low-income families and neighborhoods. In January 2020, before the pandemic, charges of over $10 resulted in over 5,700 Cambridge Public Library patrons being blocked from checking out more items.

“The Library means so much to our community that we cannot sit idly by knowing that some community members do not have access to these resources because of restrictions that are within our capacity to control,” said City Manager Louis A. DePasquale. “I am excited that the Library is more accessible to many of our community members.”

Library patrons are still responsible for returning items on time so others may enjoy them. Patrons will be billed for items that are four weeks overdue. If the items are returned, the bill will be cleared from the patron's account. To support families and young readers, the Library will also clear bills for lost or damaged Cambridge-owned children's and young adult materials under most circumstances, even if patrons cannot return the item. In the event of repeated occurrences, a librarian will reach out to the patron.

"I am pleased that we have eliminated this barrier for our community members," said Director of Libraries Dr. Maria McCauley. "This initiative gets to the heart of our commitment of being a welcoming and inclusive space, acknowledging systemic inequities that have shaped our society, and taking intentional action to create more equitable outcomes. This has been a wonderful collaborative effort with Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui, City Manager Louis A. DePasquale, and Vice Mayor Alanna Mallon."

The Library will continue to bill patrons for lost or damaged items from the adult collection and assess fines specifically related to our agreements with other libraries outside of Cambridge, such as the Commonwealth Catalog and Interlibrary Loan programs.


About the Cambridge Public Library: 
At the Cambridge Public Library, we welcome all, inspire minds and empower community. We support a Cambridge where everyone has equitable opportunities to learn, people live their best lives, and democracy thrives. During the Covid-19 health crisis we are offering a variety of programs and services. Visit our website to learn more.