A young boy finds a quiet spot to read at the library in Gainesville. Photo courtesy Prince William County

Prince William Public Libraries will no longer charge fines for late items.

Fines typically most affect those with limited resources and deter them from checking materials out from the libraries, the library system said in a news release.

“By removing overdue fines, other libraries throughout the country have noticed that patrons are returning their overdue items at an increased rate and more patrons are reengaging with their libraries,” said library director Deborah Wright.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, county libraries suspended fines from March to November. After looking at data, leadership chose not to reimplement fines for children and teens after November as the benefits far outweighed the small amount of revenue received from late fees.

“Our vision of being the hub connecting people to the transforming power of information is becoming a reality by taking steps like removing fines, offering mobile Wi-Fi hotspots for patrons to have internet access in their homes, and increasing both our physical and online collections,” said Wright. “We want to continue to be a welcoming, inclusive environment and we can only do so by making changes that better our patrons’ experiences.”

The county library system joins more than 280 library systems across the country that have gone completely fine-free. According to the Urban Libraries Council and American Library Association, data and experiences from other libraries has proven that removing late fees removes unfair economic barriers to library access for youth and patrons from disadvantaged backgrounds. A common, related driver is increasing engagement with the library and inviting users back who had been shut out because of fines.

Patrons will still be responsible for paying for lost or damaged items, but staff will work with patrons to clear old fees from their accounts after they return past-due items at any of the county's 12 libraries.


(8) comments

William Macken

Not to mention the inevitable “drain” on inventory of available books/materials for everyone else!! ☹️

John Dutko

It would be really embarrassing having a collections agency come after you for a romance novel.

Lynne June

So, if fines are eliminated, I can permanently keep the books I take.

John Dutko

No, that is theft.

You will still be on the hook for lost or damaged items. You will not be charged for “overdue” items.

Be a good citizen and return the community books when you are done with them.

Todd Jones

So if you are too lazy/irresponsible to return borrowed materials on time, that's now OK. We wouldn't want to risk hurting anyone's feelings, would we?

John Dutko

I bet a great many people here haven’t been to a library in decades and are just itching for culture war crap.

Btw, Kanopy is a great tool for those that want to use it. All you need is a library card from a participating branch:

Todd Jones

I actually go to the library at least once a week. If you can get there to check out materials, chances are pretty good you can find a way to get back there to return them within three weeks, or 15 weeks if you renew the maximum four times. You can also return to other libraries or the dropboxes in various locations. Now what's your excuse?

John Dutko

Good for you! Glad you act like an adult and not try to find loopholes in an attempt to exploit changing policies.

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