As Eugene children and families ring in the New Year, they will also celebrate waived library fines.
Beginning January 1, Eugene Public Library will no longer charge overdue fines on children’s and teen items. Any existing overdue fines for youth materials will also be removed from accounts, making currently blocked library cards free to use.
Library Services Director Will O’Hearn, said policies like this have actually encouraged people to return more books.
“Chicago just put out they went fine free completely—that’s for adults and children—they found there was a 240% increase in books returned,” said O’Hearn.
According to O’Hearn, the budget for overdue fines for children and teens is .3% of the library’s budget. Although this amount does matter, it doesn’t compare to the library’s worst enemy—unused resources.
O’Hearn said people are more likely to return books—and less hesitant to visit the library—when there aren’t late fine penalties.
“What traditionally happens is people go, ‘Oh, I’m 20 days late on this,” said O’Hearn. “Oh, I’ll never get back to that and I’ll never be able to come back [to the library].’ So [they’ll] just keep the books and go, ‘I guess my time at the library is done.’”
Eugene Public Library’s new policy aims to promote early literacy by making library use easier and more accessible to low income families and youth.
“We think that the value of folks being able to use those resources and getting them into the hands of folks that really need it—especially targeting our youth with declining third grade reading levels—was something really critical for us as champions of literacy in our community,” said O’Hearn.
Eugene Public Library will also change the pricing of their non-resident cards, changing the cost of the first month from $20 to $11.
If fines are not removed from cards by January 1, O’Hearn said people can go to the library and ask for them to be manually removed after the New Year has begun.