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Jennifer Hines

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LINCOLN PUBLIC LIBRARY ELIMINATES OVERDUE FINES

Post Date:03/10/2021

The Lincoln Public Library (LPL) will be easier to use and friendlier than ever after the Lincoln City Council approved the Library’s request to eliminate overdue fines for library materials during their March 9th, 2021 meeting. 

All items, including books, DVDs, CDs, and audiobooks, will no longer be charged overdue fees for being returned after their due date. Existing overdue fines will be waived for all library accounts. Patrons will still be expected to return items in a timely manner and will be billed a replacement fee for items not returned 14 days past the due date. The fee will be excused when the item is returned in good condition.

“One of the Lincoln Public Library’s goals is to be more accessible to members of our community who have historically avoided the Library for fear of overdue fines,” said Lincoln Director of Library Services, Kathryn Hunt. “By removing these fines, the Library and the City Council are letting those residents know that they are welcome here.”

While the Lincoln Public Library is the first library system in Placer County to eliminate overdue fines, it joins dozens of library systems nationwide in recognizing that overdue fines create unnecessary and inequitable barriers to resources. Moreover, overdue fines negatively affect patrons who can least afford the fine and are not an effective incentive to returning library materials. Other libraries that eliminated overdue fines did not have more items returned late, but gained more patrons and checked out more items.

“The purpose of the library collection is to be used,” said Hunt. “Now that our materials can be checked out without worrying about overdue fines, we’re excited to welcome back patrons we haven’t seen in a while and connect new cardholders with the collection the community has invested in.”  

Previously, overdue fines ranged between $0.25-$1.00 per day the item was late, with a maximum fee of $7.50 per item. When a patrons’ account reached a fine of $10 or more, their account could not be allowed to borrow materials until the amount was paid to less than $10. People would commonly stop using the Library rather than pay what they could not afford, or choose to never use the Library in the first place.  

In 2018-19, the Library collected roughly $15,000 in overdue fines which were deposited into the City’s General Fund. However, it cost the Library over 700 staff hours valued at a total to $16,000 to collect those fines.

“We are going to use that same staff time to provide value-added services to the community, instead of arguing over small fines,” said Hunt. “We’ll be spending more time connecting students to books they’ll enjoy or to resources that support their school work, introducing adults to programs such as our Adult Literacy Program, and generally meeting the needs of each patron who comes into the Library.”

The Library is currently open with limited hours and service modifications due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Any California resident is eligible for a Lincoln Public Library card, though applicants under the age of 18 will need to be accompanied by a legal guardian. Photo ID and proof of current address are required to create a library account. Active cardholders can borrow up to 50 items from the Library at one time, and eligible items are automatically renewed to make it even easier to fit the Library into a busy schedule. Patrons receive updates to their registered email address, or can opt-in for text notifications.

For more information, please visit the Library's Fine & Fee page.

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