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Library

Posted on: November 1, 2019

Fine-Free for Youth!

[En español]


Starting January 1, 2020, Eugene Public Library will no longer charge overdue fines on children’s and teen items. Additionally, any existing overdue fines for children’s and teen items will be removed from accounts. As a result, many Eugene Public Library cards that are currently blocked due to overdue fines will again be free to use. 


This new policy aims to promote early literacy and reading among all Eugene youth by making library use as easy and accessible as possible. 


In taking this approach, Eugene joins a trend sweeping public libraries nationwide. Under the old policy, if parents or teens were unable to get to the library to return items before due dates, the combined overdue fines could block use of the card until payment was made. This created an unnecessary barrier to library use, particularly for families already facing financial challenges. The risk of overdue fines led some families to borrow fewer items or not use the library at all.

 

“Eugene Public Library’s mission is to make books and other items and services easily available to the community,” says Library Director Will O’Hearn. “Taking a fresh look at our methods, we realized that overdue fines unintentionally made it harder for families to use the Library. It’s best for everyone, and for Eugene’s future, for households with children to have lots and lots of books around.”

 

Adds Library Youth Services Manager Kris Thorp, “We love to see parents and kids leaving with armfuls of books to read together. And to see teens exploring and borrowing big piles of books. Overdue fines can get in the way. Plus, the fines can easily add up, which hits low-income families especially hard.”


Public libraries from Portland, Oregon to Washington, D.C. have adopted similar overdue-fine-free policies. Based on those libraries’ experiences, Eugene Public Library expects most items will continue to be returned on time, because library borrowers respect the need to make items available for others to use. Items that have not been returned to Eugene Public Library by 30 days after due date will continue to be marked as “lost,” with the account charged for replacement and processing costs.


For more information or assistance, contact Eugene Public Library: 541-682-5450 or www.eugene-or.gov/library.


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Frequently Asked Questions

 

Starting January 1, 2020, Eugene Public Library will no longer charge overdue fines on children’s and teen items. Existing overdue charges for children’s and young adult items will be removed from accounts.


What is meant by children’s and teen “items”?

The new approach is based on the item, not on the age of the borrower. Overdue fines will not be charged for items in Library’s children’s or teen collections. “Items” includes books, movies, music, and other borrowable items. Children’s items are marked with labels starting with J (Juvenile). Teen items are marked with labels starting with YA (Young Adult).


Will overdue fines still be charged for adult items? 

Yes. Overdue fines will continue to be charged for adult items.


Why does this change include children’s and teen items only? 

This change aims to promote literacy and reading among all Eugene youth and is part of a larger goal to make library use as easy and accessible as possible.


What about existing overdue fines on my account?

When the new policy takes effect, existing overdue charges for children’s and young adult items will be removed from accounts.

(Please note: payments made before the new policy takes effect cannot be refunded later. For now, you may choose to leave overdue fines on children's and young adult items unpaid; those charges will be deleted after January 1. Other types of charges, such as fees for lost or damaged items, will remain on accounts.)

 

Will I still receive due date reminders and overdue notices?

Yes. The Library will continue to provide due date reminders and overdue notices for all types of items. These courtesy notices are delivered by each borrower’s choice of communication: email, text, or automated phone service.

 

Will there still be a grace period?

Yes. The Library will continue its current 3-day grace period policy.


How can I get help understanding charges on my account?

Please contact the Library at any time for assistance in understanding charges on your account, setting up a payment plan, or other concerns. If there is anything preventing you from using your library card, please let us know. Visit in person or call 541-682-5450.

 

Why is Eugene Public Library making this change?

The purpose of this change is to increase and facilitate access to literacy and reading for all of Eugene’s children and teens. Under the old policy, if parents or teens were unable to get to the library to return items before due dates, the combined overdue fines could block use of the card until payment was made. This created an unnecessary barrier to library use, particularly for families already facing financial challenges. The risk of overdue fines led some families to borrow fewer items or not to use the library at all.


Without fines, will library items be returned on time?

Libraries that have made this change report that items continue to be returned on time or soon after, because borrowers respect the need to make items available for others to use. Items that have not been returned to Eugene Public Library by 30 days after due date will continue to be marked as “lost,” with the account charged for replacement and processing costs.


Doesn’t the Library need the money from overdue fines to buy more books?

Purchasing new materials is part of the Library’s budget every year and is not connected to overdue fines.

 

How will this affect the Library budget?

Eugene Public Library is currently focused on a commitment to increase access and services for children and teens. This initiative involves a variety of programs and projects, including this strategy. The cost of this change -- about $40,000 annually for no-longer-charged overdue fines, which represents .3 percent of the Library’s annual budget of $14.7 million – has been accounted for in the planning process.

 

What was the old overdue fine policy for children's and young adult items?

Through the end of 2019, overdue fines for children’s and young adult items are 25 cents per day per item, up to a maximum of $5.00 per item. When the total charges on an account, including overdue fines, reach $10.00 or more, use of the card is blocked.

 

Which other public libraries have made this change?

Eugene Public Library joins a number of library systems across the country taking similar actions in recent years. Libraries that have adopted some form of overdue-fine-free borrowing include Multnomah County Library (Portland, Oregon), Springfield Public Library (Oregon), Salt Lake City Public Library (Utah), Los Angeles Public Library (California), San Rafael Public Library (California), High Plains Library District (Colorado), Noble County Public Library (Indiana), New London Public Library (Wisconsin), Columbus Metropolitan Library (Ohio), Nashville Public Library (Tennessee), Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Free Library (Maryland), the Free Library of Philadelphia (Pennsylvania), and DC Public Library (Washington, D.C.).

 

What have these libraries experienced as a result?

Generally, they report that items are still returned by due date or soon after; that overall borrowing has increased; that more children and teens have signed up for library cards; and that parents express appreciation and feel they can allow their kids to borrow more items per visit.

 

Questions? 

For more information or assistance, including questions about charges on your account, please contact Eugene Public Library: 541-682-5450.


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