Starting May 1, 2022, Eugene Public Library will no longer charge overdue fines. Additionally, any existing overdue fines 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 policy aims to make library use as easy and accessible as possible for all community members.
The library stopped charging overdue fines on children's and teen items in January 2020. As expected, that change encouraged library card sign-ups and increased use, without causing any problems.
In taking this approach, Eugene is part of a trend sweeping public libraries nationwide. Under the old policy, if borrowers 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 those already facing financial challenges. The risk of overdue fines led some people 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. "Overdue fines can get in the way. Plus, the fines can easily add up, especially for anyone already facing financial challenges..”
Many public libraries nationwide have adopted similar overdue-fine-free policies. Based on those libraries’ experiences and its own, 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 costs.
For more information or assistance, contact Eugene Public Library: 541-682-5450 or www.eugene-or.gov/library.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the new fine-free policy?
Starting May 1, Eugene Public Library will no longer charge overdue fines on adult items (we already don't charge them for children and teens). Existing overdue charges will be removed from accounts.
Didn't you already do this?
In January 2020, we eliminated overdue fines for children's and teen items. That policy change has succeeded: most items are still returned by due date or soon after, overall borrowing has increased, more people have signed up for library cards, and parents express appreciation and feel they can allow their kids to borrow more items per visit.
What is the purpose of this change?
Our mission is to make library use as easy and accessible as possible to everyone in Eugene. Overdue fines can unintentionally made it harder for community members to use their library.
For a variety of reasons, people are sometimes unable to get to the library to return items before due dates. If an account has many items borrowed at once, the combined overdue fines can add up to large amounts and even block use of the card until payment is made.
For this reason, overdue fines sometimes creates an unnecessary barrier to library use, particularly for those already facing financial challenges. Just the risk of charges leads some people to borrow fewer items or not to use the library at all.
What about existing overdue fines and other fees already charged to accounts?
Existing overdue fines will be removed from accounts. We will also remove fees of any type that we will no longer charge (such as our previous unclaimed holds and processing fees). As a result, some Eugene Public Library cards that are currently blocked will again be free to use.
Please note: payments made before the new policy takes effect cannot be refunded later. We recommend not paying fines right now, because those charges will be deleted on May 1.
Also note: charges to replace incomplete, lost, and damaged items will remain on accounts.
Will I still receive due date reminders and overdue notices?
Yes. We will continue to provide due date reminders and overdue notices. These courtesy notices are delivered by each borrower’s choice of communication: email, text, or automated phone service.
How can I get help understanding charges on my account and how this affects me personally?
Please contact the library any time for assistance in understanding charges on your account, setting up a personalized 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.
Without fines, will library items be returned on time?
Our library and others that have made this change nationwide have found that items continue to be returned on time or soon after, because borrowers respect the need to make items available to others. Items that have not been returned to Eugene Public Library by 30 days after due date will continue to be considered “lost," and the account charged for replacement cost.
Which other public libraries have made this change?
Libraries that have adopted some form of overdue-fine-free borrowing include Multnomah County Library (Portland, Oregon), Springfield Public Library (Oregon), Seattle Public Library (Washington), 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.).
Doesn’t the library need the money from overdue fines to buy more books? How will this affect the library's budget?
Purchasing new materials is part of the library’s budget every year and is not connected to overdue fines. The cost of this change has been accounted for in our planning process. The no-longer-charged overdue fines will total about $235,000, which is 1.6 per cent of the library’s annual budget of $15 million.
For more information or assistance, including questions about charges on your account, please contact Eugene Public Library: 541-682-5450.