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Go Ask Mom

Durham County Library joins Wake, Chapel Hill systems and goes fine free

Posted July 21, 2020 7:00 p.m. EDT

Photo by Catherine Hammond on Unsplash

— Durham County Library is now fine free and will no longer charge patrons for overdue library materials. According to a press release, existing overdue fines will be forgiven and no more will accrue. This change, which went into effect July 1, should be reflected in library users’ accounts by late July.

Durham is joining Wake County Public Library and Chapel Hill Public Library, which also are fine-free libraries, and other libraries across the country in an national trend that aims to ensure that library books and other materials are accessible to all. Last year, the American Library Association urged libraries to eliminate fines, citing evidence that managing and collecting the fines take up valuable staff time and that ending them increases library card adoption and library use.

One NPR report found that Chicago saw a 240% increase in returned materials less than a month after its fine-free policy started. In San Diego, officials discovered they were spending about $1 million a year to collection $675,000 in fines.

In Durham County, library users will still have to pay for lost or damaged items, including a $5 processing fee, but there will be no fines for items returned late.

“It has long been a goal of our libraries to go fine free. We are committed to being an organization that creates equal access to resources," said Durham County Library Director Tammy Baggett-Best in a press release. "Too often late fees create barriers for members of our community and keep customers from returning to our libraries. We want Durham County residents to know everyone’s welcome at the library.”

More information about Durham's fine-free system is on the library's website.

Wake County's libraries went fine free in January. Chapel Hill also went fine free on July 1.

All three library systems have launched curbside services so you can check out actual books during the ongoing pandemic.