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Washington County Libraries Have (Hooray, Hooray) Eliminated Overdue Fines

On January 26, 2021, Washington County Cooperative Library Services eliminated overdue fines!

We no longer charge for overdue materials, and all overdue fines on your account have been removed.  

We have made this change because WCCLS libraries are for everyone – our libraries’ mission is to serve all residents of Washington County – equally, affordably and with easy access. Studies have shown (PDF) that overdue fines most severely impact communities of color and/or with lower incomes, and don’t significantly promote the timely return of library materials.

So, this change was an easy, logical, happy choice for our libraries. They unanimously recommended this change to the Washington County Board of Commissioners, who enthusiastically approved it in December, 2020.

Here are answers to some of the questions you may have about the change.

If I have overdue fines, what does this mean for me?

If you have overdue fines on your account, those fines have been removed and you can use your WCCLS library card online or at any Washington County library location. If you have replacement/damage charges, you will still need to arrange for payment. If you need help, please contact us.  

Will there still be due dates? Will this increase my waiting time when I want to check something out? Will people keep things longer?

Due dates and checkout times will remain the same. We will continue to encourage timely return of materials and consideration for others through our automatic notice system. Libraries across the country who have already done away with overdue fines haven’t seen a difference in whether patrons return materials on time, nor have they reported an increase in late returns. We continue to charge for items that are lost or damaged, and accounts with more than $20 in lost items will be blocked from further checkouts.

Will this decrease libraries’ budgets?

Overdue fines are a very tiny percentage of WCCLS libraries’ budgets. Additionally, it costs libraries money and staff time to collect fines, a large portion of which will no longer be necessary. Digital materials (e-books, audiobooks, online resources) are an ever-increasing percentage of our collection and do not incur overdue fines. Libraries agree the equity gains for our communities outweigh any potential lost revenue.

What if I have more questions?

If you have additional questions, please contact your local library.