LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles County libraries are eliminating fines — including late fees — effective immediately following Tuesday’s vote by the county Board of Supervisors.
"We are pleased the Board of Supervisors approved the elimination of library fines. This is a critical step in removing barriers and opening access to all library customers,” said LA County librarian Skye Patrick. “This important initiative will help us do our everyday work of fostering learning experiences, sparking curiosity, making connections and building skills for all LA County residents.”
The five supervisors unanimously voted to eliminate late fees at their Aug. 10 board meeting, instructing Patrick to waive all fines and fees for overdue books and library materials. The approved motion also instructs the library to waive all existing fees for library patrons and write off the library’s Accounts Receivable.
Library fines make up less than 1% of library revenue, and as of the last two fiscal years, staffing costs associated with collecting late fees have been greater than the amount of fees collected.
The board motion, authored by Fourth District Supervisor Janice Hahn, finds that fines and fees impose a financial burden and barrier to services on low-income and fixed-income patrons of the county library, including families, seniors and people facing financial struggles.
“Library late fines do much more harm than good,” Hahn said. “Our LA County libraries are full of great resources, and we want people to take advantage of them. It is time to make LA County Library a fine-free library system.”
The county’s decision to eliminate fines puts it in league with a growing wave of fee-free libraries across the U.S., including approximately 30 library systems in California alone. The San Francisco Public Library eliminated its overdue fines in 2019, Los Angeles Public Library eliminated its fees in early 2020 and the Pasadena Public Library eliminated its overdue fines this July.
In Nov. 2018, the Victorville City Library ran a “food for fees” program, allowing patrons to reduce or eliminate fines by bringing non-perishable food items to the library for donation. Victorville then eliminated its late book fines in early 2020, instituting a program that blocks patrons with overdue books from making new check-outs.
“As someone here to serve the patrons of a community in a library, you have to ask yourself, why do you even have fees?” said Victorville Library coordinator Arnold Castro.