The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to eliminate fines for overdue books and other materials from county libraries.
Supervisor Janice Hahn proposed the change.
“Library late fines do much more harm than good,” Hahn said. “They make up less than 1% of the library’s revenue and they can dissuade people from using the library’s services. Our L.A. County libraries are full of great resources and we want people to take advantage of them.”
Hahn said the change would take effect immediately. The board also directed the county librarian to work with county counsel to waive all fees for library patrons and write off unpaid fines.
“This is a critical step in removing barriers and opening access to all library customers,” County Librarian Skye Patrick said. “This important initiative will help us do our everyday work of fostering learning experiences, sparking curiosity, making connections and building skills for all L.A. County residents.”
The cost of collecting fees has exceeded the amount collected over the past two years, officials said. Hahn noted that other large urban library systems have adopted a fine-free model, including libraries in the city of Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Chicago, Denver and Columbus, Ohio.
Research shows that such policies have resulted in a 200% increase in returned books and other materials and a higher demand for library cards, according to Hahn.
Hahn quoted to her colleagues from a Los Angeles Times editorial that ran Tuesday.
“Library fines are doing neither the public nor the public libraries much good,” the Times editorial board wrote. “Our society shouldn’t allow 25 cents a day to stand between families and free access to books.”
The Los Angeles County system includes 85 libraries — including local libraries in Lancaster, Quartz Hill and Littlerock — that are once again open for business.