Bookworms, rejoice! OC Public Libraries eliminates late fees

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The library, a room full of Star Wars books, is seen inside Rancho Obi-Wan, the world's largest private collection of Star Wars memorabilia, in Petaluma, California on Nov. 24, 2015.(JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images)

The library, a room full of Star Wars books, is seen inside Rancho Obi-Wan, the world’s largest private collection of Star Wars memorabilia, in Petaluma, California on Nov. 24, 2015. (JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images)

Bookworms, rejoice!

Starting next week, Orange County public libraries will no longer charge late fines for overdue books.

The O.C. Board of Supervisors approved a motion Tuesday to indefinitely eliminate library late fines at all OC Public Libraries. The new measure will take effect on Nov. 23, when all existing overdue fines will also be waived for all library cardholders.

“Public libraries play an essential role in providing safe, accessible, and free educational resources for every member in our community,” said Andrew Do, chairman of the Board of Supervisors. “Eliminating late fines will incentivize residents to take advantage of county library resources once again and not be hesitant to take a book home during their next visit.” 

Those with outstanding items are invited back to the library to return overdue or lost items and will be given a “fresh start,” according to a news release from OC Public Libraries. 

Library items will still have due dates, and eligible items will continue to be auto-renewed. If an item is returned beyond the due date, no overdue fines will be charged, but the library will still collect fines for lost or damaged items. 

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, OC Public Libraries implemented the longest removal of late fines to lessen financial disparities experienced by the Orange County community with no negative impact on the library budget,” Supervisor Katrina Foley said in a statement. “In reality, the fine system costs more to implement than the fines recovered, and it deters residents from using the libraries. It’s time for change.”

OC Public Libraries is seeking to reflect on its vision of ‘Open Doors, Free Access and Community’ and welcome back patrons that have refrained from coming to the library due to outstanding fines, the library news release says.

“The implementation of a late fine-free library system positively impacts the continued use of community libraries and offers library patrons a fresh start,” the news release states. “This is also an opportunity to be relieved of any financial obstacles preventing them from continued use of valuable library services.”

In Orange County, cities with a high percentage of children under 18 years of age living in poverty also see a higher number of patrons blocked from using library services because of overdue fines on their accounts, according to the library.

In 2019, The American Library Association passed a resolution stating that library fines create an economic barrier to access library materials and services, and urged libraries to actively move toward eliminating fines. 

Just this past August, the neighboring ​L.A. County Library system eliminated late fees across its 84 community-based library outlets.

Libraries that adopted fine-free policies have seen several positive outcomes including increased patron access to materials and services, reduction of the inequitable impact of overdue fines, improved patron relationships with their library, optimization of library staff time and increased staff efficiency, growth in library card registrations, and 200% increase in returned library materials, according to OC Public Libraries.

For more information on OC Public Libraries and the elimination of late fines, visit ocpl.org/nolatefines, or visit any OC Public Libraries branch. 

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