News Flash

Summit County Government

Posted on: May 21, 2021

Summit County Libraries Announce a New Way Forward: Eliminating Library Overdue Fines

A container of hand sanitizer and a bowl of clean pens at the library entrance.

Contacts: Stephanie Ralph, Library Director, (970) 668 4282, Haley Littleton, President of Board of Trustees, 864-704-0380

SUMMIT COUNTY -- The Summit County Libraries will eliminate barriers to library use by removing library fines. SCL will join libraries across the country in this movement aimed at making libraries more inclusive and welcoming. Libraries are learning that removing fines increases access for those who most benefit from using library resources and services. The library sees this as the continuation of its mission to give everyone in our community a welcoming environment and opportunities to search, connect and enjoy lifelong learning and its vision of an empowered Summit County community.

“It is our goal to provide more equitable access to resources in our community and we hope that these changes will help encourage increased use of the Library system and reduce financial burden on our community,” said Commissioner Tamara Pogue.

The Summit County Library has come to this decision for several reasons. 

  • Growing community goodwill.  Going fine-free renews the appreciation of libraries by local organizations and civic leaders. Through its programs and initiatives, SCL is a leader in early literacy efforts – storytimes, 1000 Books Before Kindergarten, and Summer Reading. Overstressed and underserved families are most vulnerable to library fines and blocked cards. Removing this barrier to access for children and families who need library resources better aligns the library with early literacy goals and goals regarding access for all. SCL wants to make sure that libraries remain a space where everyone feels welcome.
  • Improves customer service environment at the Library.  Staff work to create a positive atmosphere in the Library. Eliminating conversations on money owed improves relationships with patrons and returns the customer service emphasis to meeting patron needs.
  • Increases use of the Library.  Libraries that have gone fine-free report increased circulation, new cards, and patron visits. When people no longer feel the uncertainty of library fines, they feel free to utilize the library more. 
  • Importance of the impact on equity. The American Library Association has stated that fines are a form of continued social inequity. Many patrons and families struggle with limited time and resources to organize library visits. Many elderly or patrons with a disability may find regular library visits impossible. Transportation in Summit County can also be an added difficulty. Some patrons may work multiple jobs and find it difficult to return materials on time. Some patrons may not be familiar with American library systems or their requirements. They are at the most risk for incurring fines. As the economic strain for these vulnerable library users continues to increase, there is very little cushion in family budgets to pay library fines.  This is particularly true during COVID. While patrons are required to cover replacement fees, Summit County Library does not wish to prevent our patrons but seeks to encourage library usage. 

There will still be a two-week checkout policy and items must be returned or renewed by the due date. If an item has not been returned or renewed 30 days after the due date, the patron is sent a billing notice with a replacement fee. The patron’s library account will then be blocked from accessing library services until that item is returned or paid for. If the item is returned, the replacement fee is waived from the account and the card is unblocked. If residents have library items at home that they have not returned-even if they are several years overdue, they are encouraged to bring them back to the library. 

“There is no need to feel embarrassed or ashamed. There will be no fees on these items as we will clear them off your record. We are just happy to have library materials back and more people in our community engaging with the library,” comments Stephanie Ralph, Summit County Library Director.

“We are proud to move forward with this new movement- going Fine-Free,” comments Haley Littleton, President of the Summit County Library Board of Trustees. “Libraries are intended to be free and for everyone.  We are so excited to welcome people and to continue to remove barriers to access. The library will continue to look into other barriers that impact access to library resources and programming.”

Find more FAQs about fine-free at this Summit County Library news update.

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