Business, Education, Family, Politics

Baltimore County Public Library permanently discontinues late fees

TOWSON, MD—The Baltimore County Public Library on Thursday announced that branches would eliminate extended loan fees, or late fees.

Extended loan fees have been permanently discontinued and outstanding balances on cardholders’ accounts have been removed.

Customers who may not have visited the library recently due to financial obligations or fear of accruing late fines are encouraged to visit their local branch and start over with a clean slate.

“This is a huge milestone for Baltimore County Public Library and we are thrilled to join a cadre of other prestigious library systems around the country that have embraced a fine-free model,” said Library Director Sonia Alcántara-Antoine. “Library fines create barriers to access and hurt the people who need its resources and services the most. Eliminating unnecessary fees levels the playing field for all in the community and it is exciting to be part of this structural change.”

Cardholders will not face financial assessments for returning items late, though overdue books must be returned in order to check out additional materials.

While cardholders will no longer incur fines for late returns, they will still be responsible for replacement costs and a $4 processing fee if an item is lost (an item is considered lost 21 days past the due date) or damaged. If a replacement cost is assessed and the item is returned, the charge will be removed and borrowing privileges reinstated.

Popular items regularly have cardholders waiting to check them out and the library needs the items back in circulation. To make this easier for cardholders, items that are eligible for renewal will be automatically renewed. Cardholders will be notified of these renewals and new due dates via email or text.

Cardholders will not face financial assessments for returning items late, though overdue books must be returned in order to check out additional materials. While cardholders will no longer incur fines for late returns, they will still be responsible for replacement costs if an item is lost, damaged or not returned, or a processing fee for not picking up items placed on hold.

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Baltimore County Public Library currently has 416,427 cardholders. This change would clear the accounts of 74,841 library card holders making the library once again accessible for using in-branch computers and borrowing resources, including Chromebooks and hotspots.

The “fine-free” model, encouraged by the American Library Association, has become standard practice for many library systems both large and small throughout the country. The ALA’s Resolution on Monetary Library Fines as a Form of Social Inequity states that “monetary library fines create a barrier to the provision of library and information services.” The resolution also asserts that “there is mounting evidence that indicates eliminating fines increases library card adoption and library usage.

The new policy, which was supported by County Executive Johnny Olszewski, was made possible with County funding in FY22 to offset the cost. The Baltimore County Council and Board of Library Trustees approved the measure before it became official.

Photo by Iñaki del Olmo on Unsplash

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