While it has been discussed in the past, the Fresno County Public Library currently has no plans to forgive and eliminate late fees for borrowed materials. Photo by Ben Hensley.

published on May 19, 2022 - 2:55 PM
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With public libraries around the country altering policies to remove late fees, the Fresno County Public Library has options for members to ease the financial burden and get readers back to the library.

While Fresno County libraries are not currently implementing the cancellation of late fees, the local system does have several policies that enable library staff to work with library cardholders when it comes to late materials being returned.

“For us, we always try to air on the side of leniency,” said Library Marketing and Community Relations Officer Susan Renfro. “We have our fines that accumulate, we have our late fees, but usually when somebody comes in and talks to us — lets us know what the problem is, what happened, why the books are late, why they got lost, things like that — we’re always super open to working with people.”

While the library does not currently have an official policy regarding the cancellation of late fees, the library has brought up the idea at meetings in the past, with intent to create the best environment for local readers.

“It’s always something that we’re talking about because other jurisdictions are talking about going fine-free,” Renfro said.

“There have been conversations around that,” she said, adding that the policy would first need to be approved by the county’s board of supervisors.

The San Diego Public Library is one of many across the country canceling late fees, and has experienced positive results not only in regard to book returns, but members returning to the library.

“We did see books returning, but mostly what we saw was an increase in circulation,” said San Diego Public Library Director Misty Jones. “That’s really why we did this.”

Jones explained that the San Diego Public Library eliminated not only fines, but cleared the slate for all members’ late fees.

Circulation numbers in San Diego jumped by more than 50,000 items from June to September 2018, from 676,852 items in June to 729,351 in September.

Renfro at the Fresno County Public Library encourages members to return  materials and speak with a library assistant regarding why the materials were returned late.

“We want people to come in,” Renfro said. “We don’t want them to not come in because they’re worried that they have this fine that they couldn’t pay.”

The Fresno County Public Library still allows members who have overdue books to check out new materials, but that lost materials may incur disruptions in members’ accessibility.

“If somebody has overdue books, they can still check out books,” Renfro said, adding that while different materials have different fees (books, DVDs, etc.) restrictions are not usually placed on members’ accounts until materials have been labeled as lost.

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