News

Contra Costa County library system goes fine-free on overdue books

Starting Jan. 1 all overdue fines will be forgiven

The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors Tuesday morning moved to eliminate overdue book fines at all 26 libraries in the county -- including in Danville and San Ramon -- effective Jan. 1, citing concerns about the area's high cost of living and the number of patrons who currently have their borrowing privileges suspended because of fines.

Out of roughly 650,000 library users countywide, an estimated 18% of them currently have their cards "blocked," meaning they cannot be used to check out books or other materials, according to County Librarian Melinda Cervantes.

That includes 21,000 youth cards belonging to children who are unable to check out library materials during what Cervantes described as a "critical period" in their lives. Moreover, roughly 43% of youth who have library accounts currently owe fees on those accounts.

As soon as $10 or more accumulates, the library blocks that user's card, which limits access to library materials and services. Accounts can also be referred to collections agencies, compounding the impacts on the account holder.

Those accessing the library's offerings online, such as downloading an e-book to be read on a digital device, do not incur the same kind of fees. Lower-income library users, however, may not have access to those devices.

"Those who can afford those devices already live in a fine-free world," Cervantes said. "Access to technology is an advantage."

The revenue from overdue fees and replacement costs incurred when library users pay to replace a lost item is responsible for roughly 2% of the library system's revenue, but that revenue from fines and charges has dropped by 31% since 2013.

During that same time frame, use of digital resources has increased by more than 125%, according to the library.

Supervisor Karen Mitchoff asked if it might be possible to suspend fines earlier than Jan. 1 as a holiday gift to library patrons, although no action was taken on that inquiry.

The motion passed in a 4-0 vote, with Supervisor John Gioia absent.

— Bay City News Service

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Comments

16 people like this
Posted by Ralph Kramden
a resident of Danville
on Dec 12, 2018 at 8:28 am

Sure - let's not hold anyone accountable for following the rules any more...even though every single one of the people that owes $10 or more owns a $500+ cell phone. No way could they possibly be expected to return a book on time or pay a small fine. Great example for the younger generation!!


12 people like this
Posted by C. R. Mudgeon
a resident of Danville
on Dec 12, 2018 at 9:14 am

I was going to facetiously suggest that we also get rid of fines for toll violations, parking violations, and fines for fare “avoidance” on BART, using the same thought process. But then I realized that our Board of Supervisors might take it seriously....

One question: Is there still some sort of “last resort” fine to recover the cost of books that are never returned? It is one thing to be lenient on late fees. But quite another thing to ignore cases of “one way checkouts”.


6 people like this
Posted by Ike
a resident of Danville
on Dec 12, 2018 at 9:20 am

Ike is a registered user.

Is this a prelude for supervisors voting to be exempt from accountability for themselves? This is the most ridiculous motion I've ever heard of. Fire them all.


12 people like this
Posted by Reader
a resident of Danville
on Dec 12, 2018 at 10:01 am

Why would an irresponsible patron return a book if you can "check it out" and keep forever? Parents need to teach children that they are responsible and accountable to care for and return items that do NOT belong to them. If you can manage to go to the library and"borrow" materials, you can manage to return on time. Terrible idea which will be costly and punish those who care for borrowed materials and will find that popular books are now unavailable because some one feels entitled to keep it forever.


6 people like this
Posted by reader
a resident of Danville
on Dec 12, 2018 at 10:05 am

By the way, downloading an ebook does not have overdue fees because the ebook disappears from your device unless no one else wants to read it and it is legally renewed them.


1 person likes this
Posted by San Ramon Reader
a resident of San Ramon
on Dec 12, 2018 at 8:56 pm

I’m sure the loss will be collected via that piece of the property tax pie that goes toward our libraries. I can’t imagine they would just do away with fines if they didn’t already know the alternative way to cover the loss.


8 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Walnut Creek
on Dec 13, 2018 at 12:28 pm

I for one think this is a great idea. It caught me off guard at first but believe that society, although meaning well goes about everything backwards. These removal of fines goes on to show that we believe that all people are fundamentally good. In todays world we seem to believe that all people are bad until proven otherwise, what happened? There are always going to be a few who take advantage of the system but we should not allow them to take away our humanity. If someone abuses this new system i trust they will have a record of it and revoke their privileges from using the library system at some set dollar amount, or maybe based on an individual case. Thank you for believing we are all fundamentally good, this is a huge step towards humanity, may your leadership transpire into the community.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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