Pasco County: Libraries Remove Overdue Book Fees

Raven Haengel, Photographer, Writer

In February 2020. The Pasco County Libraries have decided to get rid of the overdue book fees to have a better impact with connecting with the community and helping customers of a lower income. Locations include Centennial Park LibraryHudson Library/Administration & Systemwide ServicesHugh Embry Branch LibraryLand O’Lakes Branch LibraryRegency Park Branch LibrarySouth Holiday Branch LibraryZephyrhills Public Library, only the New Port Richey Public Library doesn’t implement these changes and counties like Hillsborough, Sarasota, Palm Beach, and Miami-Dade.  “Officials also say that the new policy is time-effective. By removing the energy spent on collecting late fees, library staff will be able to focus more on conducting activities for the community, maintaining the library collection, and presenting instructional and enrichment programs”. Libraries Program Manager Robert Harrison said to “Fines for overdue materials can act as an inequitable barrier to service, disproportionately affecting minors, students, and community members with limited financial resources,” He also said to Bay News 9 It really lowers the barrier for the less privileged to come in and use the services we offer,” Harrison said” “It actually encourages more people to come to the library. It increases the amount of materials that are being borrowed. Surprisingly, it increases the return rate of materials,”.  In 2019 “The libraries received $67,288 from late fees, but had to use $386,345 in order to manage and collect fees, as well as pay administrators of the process. Communications Manager at Urban Libraries Council Paul Negron said to “Libraries are sort of recognizing what some other systems and major cities like Chicago and Los Angeles… [are doing and] the decisions that they’ve made to go fine-free are really having some major effects,” “There was a report after Chicago Public Library went fine-free, that actually triggered a 240% increase in book returns over a three-week period right after the decision.” “We’re finding that low-income individuals are coming back to the library, re-engaging in many of the services that the library offers that will help…work on issues like education or workforce or get access to the internet,” said Negron. “As well as children, who are engaging with the library for the first time if they are encountering…fines they’re being disenfranchised from the library.” A library member named Pamela Boston said to Bay News 9 “I hope people won’t take advantage of it. And say great, I can keep this book forever and ever,” Libraries are also implementing more video game and movie rentals to bring in more teens and children. Boston responde“I know they have ukulele lessons here and I think they’re going to need to do things like that in order to bring young people in,” Will this change bring the community together or cause a bigger divide?