Howard Library System Goes Fine Free

books, library, education As of August 1, the Howard County Library System wiped all accounts clean of existing overdue fines with exception for items in the DIY and art collections.

Libraries that have eliminated overdue fines have found that return rates increase due to removing the threat of accumulating fines, which account for just two percent of Howard County Library System’s budget.

From the media release:

Why fine free?

  • It removes a barrier to access: Being fine free is in keeping with HCLS’ commitment to equity and inclusion, and it positions us to more fully live our mission of providing high quality public education for all Howard County residents. At any given time, seven percent of customers have their accounts blocked due to overdue fines. Full access has a dividend for Howard County – we all benefit from a curious and engaged community.
  • Late fines are not effective: Libraries that have eliminated overdue fines have found that return rates actually increase. By removing the threat of daily accumulating late fines, people are less likely to avoid returning to the library and more likely to bring back any overdue items they’ve checked out. No late fines mean more people using the library.

Items in the DIY and art collections are the exception and will continue to accrue fines if they are overdue, customers will also still be responsible for fees to replace lost of damaged materials.

During the 2020 legislative session, MACo supported the Building Lifelong Library Learners Act, which would have boost funding for county library capital projects, accelerate increases to the library funding formulas, and encourage minors to continue to utilize their public libraries by eliminating certain fees. The bill passed through the General Assembly but was vetoed by Governor Hogan.