Austin Library Is Checking Out Whether To Stop Charging For Overdue Materials

Jan 28, 2020

The Austin Library Commission is looking into eliminating overdue fees for all materials in the city’s public library system.

The Austin Public Library stopped charging fees on overdue materials checked out for kids in 2018. Now the commission has created a three-person workgroup to analyze the feasibility of a completely fine-free system.

Penalties for lost and damaged materials would still be assessed.

Catherine Hanna, who chairs the commission, says there's some concern about doing away with fees entirely since that money goes to the City of Austin. The library collected more than $428,000 in fiscal year 2019.

But she said at Monday's meeting, the commission decided to at least look into it.

"I think there’s consensus among the commissioners that it’s something we would like to do,” Hanna said. “There are concerns because that would take away revenue from the city because revenue from the fines ... goes into a general fund for the city.”

Currently, patrons are charged 25 cents a day per each overdue item.

Dana McBee, an assistant director for APL, says the library has been thinking about getting rid of overdue fines for some time. She says going fine-free allows everyone in the community to access the library regardless of their ability to pay.

“More and more libraries are deciding to eliminate overdue fines because it basically encourages equity, it increases access, and it brings customers back to the library who maybe haven’t come to the library because they have overdue fines,” she said.

Hanna says she hopes to have a report back from her workgroup by March. At that point, the commission would decide whether or not to recommend a fine-free system to the City Council.