Answered By: Reference Staff
Last Updated: Jun 28, 2019     Views: 454

As of July 1, 2019, Sonoma County Library does not charge overdue fines for items returned after the due date. Any remaining overdue fines were cleared.

However, patrons are still financially responsible for returning items in good condition. If a physical item is not returned within 42 days after the due date, then that item will be considered “lost,” and a replacement charge will be placed on the borrower’s account. Patrons are encouraged to return overdue materials, and will not be charged for an item previously presumed to be “lost” if it is ultimately returned to the Library.

How was this decision made?

In early 2019, the Sonoma County Library Commission asked staff to report on how library fines affect community access to the library.

 

In looking at Sonoma County data, industry research and the results of the many libraries that have already eliminated overdue fines, library staff also found that:

  • There is no connection between library fines and on-time returns. Statistics show that libraries that do not charge overdue fines do not have an increase in late returns or longer wait times.
  • Fines act as a barrier to library access. Staff found that over 80,000 Sonoma County Library patrons owe fines, and nearly 1 out of 5 library users were blocked from borrowing due to overdue fines. Fines keep many people from borrowing items in the first place, particularly those who face financial insecurity.
  • Other libraries have found that overdue fine revenue is less than the cost of staff time to collect fines. Eliminating library fines will not affect the library’s budget or ability to provide materials, programs, technology or other services.
  • Library fines do not teach responsibility. They only distinguish between patrons who can afford to pay for the common mistake of late returns and those who cannot.

The Library Commission reviewed and discussed this information at three public meetings in 2019. A new policy to eliminate overdue fines was approved on April 15, 2019, to take effect July 1, 2019. Recordings of the public meetings can be viewed online: