NEWTON — The Catawba County Library has closed the book on fines. Effective immediately, all Catawba County Library cardholders will see fines and fees removed from their accounts as the library hits reset and rolls all accounts back to a zero balance.
Libraries across the country are eliminating late fees to reduce barriers to access. As the community’s place to connect, explore and grow, the Catawba County Library believes eliminating late fees fosters a sense of community and inclusion while removing unnecessary barriers that impact the most vulnerable citizens.
Late or overdue fines unfairly affect people in low-income communities who benefit the most from access to the library’s resources. The library wants all 99,000 Catawba County cardholders to have equitable access. By eliminating fines, the library encourages all users to come back to the library and attracts new users to experience its resources, services, programs and offerings.
As with other systems that have eliminated late fines, the Catawba County Library expects an increase in the number of citizens using the library and an overall improved experience for everyone. Library staff will spend less time in the role of enforcer, working instead to provide a higher level of service to citizens. The time saved from not administering and following up on late fees should allow staff to increase time spent on sharing resources and providing expertise in technology and reference interactions.
Library systems that have gone fine free share that late fees do not ensure the return of borrowed materials. In fact, some have reported an increase in returns after the adoption of fine free policies. When the San Francisco Public Library held a six-week fine amnesty period, some 700,000 items were returned — including a book that had been checked out a century earlier.
Closing the book on fines is about providing equitable access, it does not mean that the library doesn’t care about its resources or getting them back. The library will still charge patrons for lost or damaged items. If an item is overdue by two weeks, the borrower will be blocked from checking out any other materials until they return or pay for that missing item. When they return it, the lost item charges will be taken off of their account. This is the perfect time for anyone who has long-overdue materials to bring them back to the library.
Provided that no one else is waiting to check out a title, the library will continue to provide an auto-renewal (up to two renewals) of your checked out materials. The library will also improve the notification process to send reminders encouraging people to return their materials on time or early. For anyone concerned about increased wait times for their favorite book, as always, the library will monitor wait times and make adjustments, as necessary.
To celebrate closing the book on fines, community members are invited to their local branch to check out National Library Card Month displays, pick up a “Closing the Book on Fines” tote bag, and of course check out the resources available to all.