SANTA ANA, Calif. — The Orange County Board of Supervisors voted Wednesday to end fines for late books.

Library administrators across the nation have identified such fees as an economic barrier to some would-be borrowers.

What You Need To Know

  • Orange County Public Libraries will end library fines

  • The Orange County Board of Supervisors voted to end new fines and forgive existing ones

  • Library administrators believe fines limit access to libraries

  • Administrators said librarians will have more time to work with visitors and that returns will continue to skyrocket

“Public libraries play an essential role in providing safe, accessible, and free educational resources for every member in our community,” said Andrew Do, the chairman and first district supervisor. “Eliminating late fines will incentivize residents to take advantage of county library resources once again and not be hesitant to take a book home during their next visit.”

Orange County libraries will end late fees for good Nov. 23 and all existing fees will be forgiven.

Libraries may lose some revenue, but officials expect to save at least as much on the sometimes hefty costs that come along with dedicated enforcement.

OC Libraries have, in the past, arranged special events for people to return books without a fine. With the change, library operators hope stressed borrowers will be encouraged to return long-lost books.

“Eliminating late fines helps eliminate the costly burden of fine collection and relocates staff time towards their primary purpose — guiding all patrons to the numerous resources OC Public Libraries has to offer,” said Don Wagner, third district supervisor. 

The board of supervisors’ decision does not, however, end-all enforcement. Libraries will still fine borrowers for lost or damaged items.

OC Libraries reports that locations that have ended fines have already seen positive outcomes. More patrons have access, ending barriers to people for whom a single fine may be too much to contend with. And without fines, librarians no longer have to spend time collecting money and have more time to spend with patrons and on programs. Library officials also say returns have shot up 200%.

“Library users across Orange County will be excited for this new era of library services,” said Lisa Bartlett, fifth district supervisor. “Now is the time to come back to the library!”