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Library does away with overdue fees

The Austin Public Library has announced that starting July 1, it will no longer charge overdue fees on adult and young adult materials, while at the same time outstanding fines on these materials will be waived.

At the same time, it announced that the status for any item that is more than 18 days overdue will be changed to “lost” and the patron will be charged for the item, which is the current practice for all items in the library. Should that patron return the  item within six months of its “lost” status, it will be cleared of the charge.

According to a press release sent out Wednesday, the decision to not assess fines follows a nationwide trend that removes barriers to accessing information and resources for community members. In turn, it will lift barriers for families and individuals who have no other means of obtaining services.

In Tuesday’s release, APL Director Julie Clinefelter noted that research has shown that overdue fines are ineffective in motivating people to return books on time or to encourage personal responsibility.

“They also create an unnecessary barrier for children, who frequently do not have consistent transportation or are otherwise not in control over their ability to return materials on time, and for families who cannot afford to pay them,” the release stated.

The library took its first steps in eliminating fines in 2019 when it ended fines for juvenile materials.

“Given the difficult economic situation of so many in our community, we wanted to remove overdue fines as a way to eliminate a barrier to using library resources,” said Library Board member Stephanie Postma.

The elimination of fines is another component of the library’s efforts to promote equity and inclusion, which is the center of the 2019 programming theme “One Austin, Many Stories.”