WCLS permanently eliminates library late fees

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The Whatcom County Library System (WCLS) and Bellingham Public Library eliminated overdue fines, effective January 2, 2020, joining a growing number of libraries across the country in removing fees.

“We want to welcome people back to the library, people who may have been avoiding the library or are blocked from using the library because they have overdue fines or because they are concerned about accruing fines,” said WCLS board chair Marvin Waschke, in a news release.

The move is a decision that allowing those who previously had prohibitively high fines to check out library material again is worth any drop in book return time. As of November 2019, 8.6 percent of all WCLS cardholders, or 8,422, owed more than $10 in overdue fines and were blocked from checking out material.

Library patrons returned 93.1 percent of items on time in 2018, and based on data from other libraries that have eliminated fines, WCLS doesn’t expect this rate to drop significantly. WCLS will continue to track that rate for a comparison.

The change won’t significantly affect the library financially: in 2018, fines collected made up 0.6 percent of WCLS’s operating budget.

Other Washington state libraries that have eliminated overdue fines include the Seattle Public Library, Fort Vancouver Regional Library, Kitsap Regional Library and Spokane Public Libraries.

Both WCLS and Bellingham Public Library eliminated fines for youth materials in 2013. Borrowers will still be charged replacement costs for damaged or unreturned items.

Library users can learn more, and see WCLS’s frequently asked questions on eliminating fines, by visiting bit.ly/2NcZMF8.

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