Washington County libraries eliminated overdue fines for all patrons as of January 26, 2021. A whopping 9,848 patrons regained library access after having previously been blocked from using their card.
This system-wide change is a huge step toward more equitable library access, as research shows that overdue fines disproportionately impact low-income communities and communities of color — and do not significantly promote the timely return of materials.
Any overdue fines on your account have been removed.
Our libraries’ mission is to serve all residents of Washington County equally, affordably and with easy access. As such, this change was an easy, logical choice our libraries embraced. All 16 libraries 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.
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. If you have replacement or 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?
Due dates will remain the same. We will continue to encourage the 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 will 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 make up a small 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 potentially lost revenue.