Clallam libraries will no longer charge fines for overdue books

Vote nixes the fees at facilities in Port Angeles, Sequim, Forks, Clallam Bay

PORT ANGELES — The North Olympic Library System has eschewed fines for overdue books and other materials, joining a host of other libraries that have already made the move.

The Clallam County regional library’s Board of Trustees voted 5-0 Thursday to eliminate overdue fines at its public libraries in Port Angeles, Sequim, Forks and Clallam Bay, library Director Margaret Jakubcin said.

“Many, many libraries are going in that direction now,” Jakubcin said in a Friday interview.

“There are multiple reasons for doing that.”

The fine-free policy takes effect Sept. 1.

Jakubcin said the primary reason for eliminating fines is that fines “create barriers” to service.

“It’s very important for the more at-risk portions of the community,” Jakubcin said, “that they not be blocked from being able to use those resources because they accrued a fine that’s eight years old.”

The American Library Association passed a resolution in January that described monitory fines as a “form of social inequity.”

The ALA encouraged libraries to scrutinize their practices of imposing fines and urged them to “take determined and pragmatic action to dismantle practices of collecting monetary fines.”

Jakubcin said overdue fines had become a “small portion” of the library system’s revenue. Fines do require significant staff time, she added.

The North Olympic Library System collected $39,684 in revenue from overdue fines in 2010 compared to $20,503 last year, according to a staff memo.

The library system’s total budget in 2019 was $4.56 million, with 93 percent of its revenue coming from property taxes.

“Libraries across the country are going fine-free, recognizing that overdue fines create barriers to access, have negative impacts on public relations, consume valuable staff time and are not an effective tool to encourage on-time return of library materials,” Jakubcin said in a Thursday memo to the library board.

Libraries in Jefferson, Clark, Snohomish, Island, Kitsap, Franklin, Benton, Adams, Spokane, Whatcom and King counties are among those that have gone or are in the process of going fine-free, Jakubcin said.

The elimination of fines has been shown to expedite the return of overdue materials, allow more youth and low-income users to maintain accounts, increase new accounts and improve overall circulation, Jakubcin said.

The North Olympic Library System increased the overdue charge from 10 cents per day to 20 cents per day in 2010.

Accounts over $50 were sent to a collection agency.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].

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