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OC Public Libraries Indefinitely Check Out Late Fees

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Orange County Public Libraries permanently suspended their late fee system on Nov. 23. The motion was approved by the Orange County Board of Supervisors one week before the announcement.

“Public libraries play an essential role in providing safe, accessible, and free educational resources for every member in our community,” Chairman Andrew Do, First District Supervisor, said. “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.” 

OC libraries had suspended the late-fee system during the height of the pandemic to minimize financial stress for readers. The suspension of the system did not affect the libraries’ budgets. 

“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,” Second District Supervisor Katrina Foley said

Pre-pandemic, OC Public Libraries also offered fine-free events, allowing for library cardholders to return overdue books without cost. These policies intend to reflect the  “Open Doors, Free Access and Community” motto that the libraries have attached to their services. 

While all overdue fees have been waived, there are still fees for books that have been damaged or lost. The libraries have not eliminated due dates themselves but allow for automatic renewals on select items. 

“Eliminating late fines helps eliminate the costly burden of fine collection and relocates staff time towards their primary purpose – guiding all patrons to the numerous resources OC Public Libraries has to offer,” Supervisor Don Wagner, Third District, said

These policies have been seen in other instances to improve access, build community relationships and increase the number of library cards registered. New York Public Libraries also adopted this policy in October and saw similar results of continuous growth and benefits to employees and patrons. 

As a result of the pandemic, the demand for policy changes in areas with high poverty has increased. Since Orange County is home to many such cities, this policy is one of the first steps to allocating resources back into these communities. The American Library Association shared similar sentiments in 2019, characterizing library fines as another barrier to accessibility. 

“Now is the time to come back to the library!” Fifth District Supervisor Lisa Bartlett said. 

For more information on your local public libraries in OC and the revised late fees, visit ocpl.org or ocpl.org/nolatefees

Angela Isabel Casillas is a City News Intern for the fall 2021 quarter. She can be reached at aicasill@uci.edu