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Library Commission to suggest fine-free system

Thursday, February 27, 2020 by Jessi Devenyns

At its March meeting, the Library Commission will vote on a recommendation to eliminate late-fee fines from Austin’s public libraries. “We see this as an equity and accessibility issue,” said Chair Catherine Hanna. The Austin Public Library stopped charging fees on overdue materials checked out for kids in 2018. Hanna explained to the commission that the working group formed in January to study eradicating fees for adults is still ironing out details in order to bring a recommendation to the floor. One of the changes the group is considering is eliminating library card fees for non-residents who live in Austin’s limited jurisdiction or extraterritorial jurisdiction. Fees for transfer books that are not picked up, lost books and damaged materials are not currently on the list for a fee waiver. “People would not be getting (off) scot-free,” said Commissioner Steven Self. Commissioner JC Dwyer noted that the dollar figure associated with the amount of materials lost – in large part due to unreturned overdue books – is in excess of $5 million. Library Director Roosevelt Weeks confirmed the figure. While removing late fees will increase access to libraries for everyone regardless of their ability to pay, those who have already received late fees will still need to pay them. “We cannot forgive fines. Once they’re there, they’re there,” said Weeks.

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