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,” Library Services Director Will O’Hearn said. “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.”
Library Youth Services Manager Kris Thorp added, “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.