New Jersey County Library System Eliminates Late Payment Fines
New Jersey County Library System Eliminates Late Payment Fines

⚫ After a year of discussion, a library system abolishes reminder fees

⚫ The move is expected to lead to increased user numbers and adoption

⚫ Lost or unreturned items will still incur charges

Fifteen libraries in New Jersey will waive fees starting July 1.

This measure is intended to promote equity and remove a barrier for low-income households, but users remain responsible for the materials they borrow.

The upcoming change was announced Monday by the Burlington County Library System.

“From July 1, a new life begins for everyone and from that date we will no longer charge late fees for late returns,” said BCLS Director Ranjha Das.

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The decision to abolish the fines came after more than a year of discussions and investigations into a possible change.

According to library staff, fines have not proven to be an effective way to get people to return borrowed items, and fines may cause some cardholders to stop using the library altogether.

More than 35,300 BCLS cardholders have been inactive and have not borrowed any materials for over a year, officials said. Nearly 24,000 have not borrowed any materials for over two years.

Fine vs. Fee

The change applies to books, DVDs, CDs, magazines, films, video games and borrowed technology.

Late fees in the library system started at 15 cents per day for books. After two years, a standard overdue book could cost a patron more than $100.

With the new system, cardholders will instead be charged a replacement fee for lost or unreturned materials. The replacement fee will be charged after a “grace period.”

“Fee-free does not mean that cardholders are not held responsible for the materials they borrow. They will still be charged for lost or unreturned materials,” Das said. “What we have learned from other libraries that have already made this change is that material return rates are increasing, as are borrowings, library card registrations and overall usage numbers. We expect similar results for our library system.”

According to the library system, the expected revenue loss from the change is less than 1 percent of total revenue.

BCLS is not the first library in New Jersey to take this step. Ocean County has stopped charging fees since summer 2021. Individual libraries in Montclair and Bloomfield eliminated late loan fees even before the coronavirus pandemic.

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