LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to introduce a fine-free library card for students 17 years old and younger.
Supervisors Janice Hahn and Hilda Solis co-authored the motion.
“By getting rid of late fees and penalties, our student library cards are finally a risk-free way for young people to access the tools they need to boost their education,” Hahn said, pointing out that libraries countywide offer access to computers, printers, research databases and after-school help with homework, in addition to books.
Students will be able to check out three printed items at a time for as long as they like, with no fees or fines.
Third-graders will be the first to get the new cards. This is a critical age for reading development and only 41 percent of third-graders in L.A. County are currently reading at grade level, according to a statewide scorecard published by nonprofit advocacy group Children Now.
“This initiative is really about a challenge put to us by President Barack Obama,” Solis said of a 2015 Library Card Challenge aimed at ensuring that all students have access to library resources. “It is important that every student in the county, regardless of economic status, be able to tap into these services.”
County Librarian Skye Patrick said the library has reached out to superintendents in more than 40 school districts in the library service area in planning for the new card.
“We are absolutely thrilled by the idea of offering students a fine-free card and reinforcing the county library as the center of learning,” Patrick said.
She told the board that student fines amount to less than 1 percent of the overall library budget, so the new cards wouldn’t have much impact on revenues.
A new animated video developed for the library tells kids that “with your L.A. County library card, you’ll never be bored,” calling the card a “magic key” to “cool stuff.”
Library workers offer help researching papers and other projects and students can also enjoy free online tutoring, language classes, music, e-books, movies and television shows if their parents give permission to access library computers.
The card also offers discounts at museums across the county.