Beginning Jan. 1, 2020, Mesa County Libraries will stop charging overdue fines on books and other items. In addition, all accumulated fines for overdue materials will be waived as of Jan. 1.
The library is eliminating overdue fines in order to increase patron access to library resources.
The new policy, approved in December by the library Board of Trustees, means that library privileges will be restored to about 2,800 Mesa County residents who are blocked from further checkouts because of accumulated fines exceeding $10. An analysis of blocked patrons shows that many such residents live in lower-income areas of the county.
“Eliminating fines will help people who need the library most regain full access to library services,” said Library Director Michelle Boisvenue-Fox. “We know that some patrons accumulate overdue fines because of factors such as their financial situation or inability to find timely transportation to a library location. Restricting library use by individuals in hardship situations does not provide an incentive to return materials or pay accumulated fines.”
“In addition, we have anecdotal evidence that some patrons who owe fines are reluctant to use the library. It is our belief that no one should feel discouraged from using library resources because of accumulated overdue fines,” Boisvenue-Fox said. “Fines were never intended to serve as a deterrent to using the library.”
It is important to note that the new policy applies only to fines incurred from failure to return materials on time. Billed charges for unreturned, damaged, or incomplete items will remain in force. In addition, items borrowed from other libraries (such as through interlibrary loan) are subject to the rules and regulations of the loaning libraries, so fines may continue to be charged on those items.
Fines account for approximately 1% of Mesa County Libraries’ $7 million annual budget, and that percentage has been dropping since the library implemented automatic renewals in September 2019.
“In our view, giving up less than 1% of annual revenue in order to increase patron access to library resources is a worthwhile goal,” said Boisvenue-Fox.
Many libraries throughout the United States – including some in Colorado – have eliminated fines in recent years, and Mesa County Libraries researched their experiences before pursuing the new policy. Many other libraries that have eliminated overdue fines report little change in the percentage of patrons who return materials on time. Some libraries report that more materials were returned on time after fines were eliminated.
“We will carefully monitor hold times and other statistics to make sure this decision does not diminish the library’s convenience to patrons,” Boisvenue-Fox said.
After the new policy takes effect, library patrons will still be expected to return items on or before the due date. Notifications and reminders will continue to be sent to patrons, and items not returned 30 days after they are due will be billed to the patron. Borrowing privileges will be blocked for any patron who has billed items exceeding $10.
Leading up to implementation of the new policy, Mesa County Libraries are waiving overdue fines through the end of 2019.
- Mesa County Libraries have about 78,000 cardholders.
- Mesa County Libraries charge 10 cents per day for overdue items.
- Approximately 10,700 patron accounts have accumulated charges greater than $10 and are thus blocked from borrowing or renewing materials.
- When accumulated overdue fines are waived Jan. 1, 2020, about 2,800 of those blocked patrons will immediately have their library privileges restored. The rest have other billed charges that must be resolved before they regain library privileges.
- About 19,000 library patrons have overdue fines on their accounts. Those fines will be eliminated Jan. 1, 2020.