To help families save money and encourage more people to check out materials, the Handley Regional Library System will no longer charge late fines for children’s books, movies and music that are returned. late.
Late fees will not be charged regardless of the age of the person purchasing children’s books, CD audiobooks and DVDs. Fines will continue to accrue for borrowed video games and Launchpad learning devices that are returned after their due date.
“That’s because these have significant costs,” said John Huddy, director of the library system.
Waiving fees for children’s items has been a years-long discussion for the library system, which has three branches: Handley Library in downtown Winchester, Clarke County Library in Berryville, and Bowman Library in Stephens City.
“It actually started before the COVID situation,” Huddy said. “The library board noted that it was something we needed to do.”
The elimination of fines encourages low-income residents to continue using library services.
If a patron is struggling to pay their bills and has a $10 late fee at the library, they may never come back, Huddy said.
“Those who can’t afford the fines are probably the ones who need library services more than the next person,” he said. “We want to make sure that our customers who use the library for their children – which is a crucial moment … in building this educational foundation – that they can get a book from the library.”
Waiving fines for children’s articles is “very common across the state,” Huddy said, and about half of Virginia libraries have eliminated all fines.
The Edinburgh-based Shenandoah County Library System and Samuels Public Library in Front Royal still charge late fees, but their managers say they know about the idea.
“We’ve considered this over the years,” said Robert “Sandy” Whitesides, director of the Shenandoah County Library System, which also operates volunteer libraries in Strasburg, Fort Valley, Mount Jackson, Basye-Orkney Springs and New Market.
Although they’ve talked about implementing a long-term change like this, he said they haven’t decided anything yet.
Charging a late item fee incentivizes people to return their items on time so others can check out the items in a timely manner, Whitesides said.
“We don’t really want the money back as much as we want the items back,” he said.
Samuels Library has no plans yet to eliminate any of its fees, said general manager Michelle Ross.
“We really need to do more research, but we would definitely like to remove barriers to accessing the library so that everyone can use the library,” she said.
“We’re waiting to see how it goes for the Handley Library,” Ross said. “And some of our other libraries in Virginia are looking at that as well.”
Handley charges 15 cents a day on most late items, while Shenandoah charges 20 cents and Samuels charges 10 cents.
The three library systems also cap their fines. Handley caps fines when they reach the cost of the item. Shenandoah caps his fines at $20 and Samuels caps theirs at $5.
During the pandemic, all three library systems temporarily waived late fees, particularly while patrons were in quarantine and unable to come to the library during business hours or during library closures.
But while money isn’t the main reason for charging fees, Whitesides said the Shenandoah community libraries use that funding for services and maintenance.
Shenandoah received $8,910.40 in fines for fiscal year 2022, including $4,273.40 in fines for the juvenile and young adult categories at its six locations.
Samuels tallied $10,890 in total fines for the 2022 fiscal year, which Ross said is slightly less than what the library was reporting before the pandemic. She did not specify the amount charged for children’s items.
Huddy estimated that Handley collects about $10,000 a year in fines for children’s materials alone, but he said the library system has enough funds from private donors and his localities to make up the difference.
“Our community has been really supportive of us,” he said.