Late fines at L.A. County libraries eliminated

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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.

Late fines at Los Angeles County libraries were eliminated Tuesday, in a vote by the county’s Board of Supervisors.

The Board unanimously approved a proposal authored by Supervisor Janice Hahn to get rid of the fines throughout 84 community-based library outlets in the L.A. County Library system.

“Library late fines do much more harm than good,” Supervisor Hahn said in a written statement. “They makeup less than 1% of the Library’s revenue and they can dissuade people from using the Library’s services.  Our LA County Libraries are full of great resources and we want people to take advantage of them. It is time to make LA County Library a fine-free library system.”

Hahn’s motion instructs L.A. County Librarian Skye Patrick to waive all fines and fees for overdue books and other library materials, effective immediately.

It also instructs the librarian to work with the county’s auditor-controller, the county counsel and the treasurer-tax collector to waive all existing fees for library patrons, and to write off the library system’s accounts receivable.

“We are pleased the Board of Supervisors approved the elimination of library fines. This is a critical step in removing barriers and opening access to all Library customers,” Patrick said in a statement. “This important initiative will help us do our everyday work of fostering learning experiences, sparking curiosity, making connections, and building skills for all LA County residents.”

The idea of collecting fines for overdue library materials was originally implemented as a source of revenue for the county’s library system. But the fines now make up less than 1% of library revenue, according to Hahn’s office. And, the staffing cost associated with the collection of late fees has exceeded the amount of fees collected in the past two fiscal years.

A transitions to a fine-free library system is not unique, Hahn said. In recent years, large urban systems across the country — including the LA City Public Library, San Diego Public Library, San Francisco Public Library, Chicago Public Library, Denver Public Library and Columbus Metropolitan Library systems — have all adopted a similar fine-free model, which have resulted in a 200% increase in returned library books and other materials, according to Hahn’s office.

For a list of reopened libraries near you, visit lacountylibrary.org/reopening.

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