Baltimore County Library to Eliminate Loan Fees for Youth Accounts

Effective March 8, Baltimore County Public Library (BCPL) will no longer charge extended loan fees for accounts belonging to cardholders under 18 years old.

BCPL announced that all fines and fees on more than 13,000 youth accounts are in the process of being cleared and reinstating blocked accounts. While a complete fine-free model is being considered, extended loan fees do remain in place for adults at this time. For youth accounts, this changes aligns with BCPL’s strategic goal of providing equitable access and removal of barriers to library materials and services. This also aligns BCPL with extended loan fine-free policies of many libraries across the United States.

From the press release:

“Removing these fees will help to reduce barriers keeping some Baltimore County children from accessing all the books, materials and services the library has to offer,” said Baltimore County Public Library Director Sonia Alcántara-Antoine. While we want materials returned in a timely manner for those waiting, penalizing children for late materials is not the answer.”

The timing of this policy change is the result of the House of Delegates and Senate overriding the Governor’s veto of the “Building Lifelong Library Learners Act” in early 2021. In 2019 the American Library Association passed a resolution citing mounting evidence that eliminating fines increases library card adoption and library use. The resolution also recognized fines as a form of “social inequity” and urged libraries to actively “move toward eliminating them.”

MACo supported the bill mentioned above, SB 524 / HB 1000 – Building Lifelong Library Learners Act, as it boosts funding for county library capital projects, accelerates increases to the library funding formula and encourages minors to continue to utilize their public libraries by eliminating certain fines.

From MACo’s 2020 testimony on SB 524:

Maryland’s counties share funding responsibility with the State for our libraries and support additional resources for them. County governments direct well over $300 million of their operating budget general funds each year to supporting libraries.

Counties are proud to support libraries, which have become an integral facet to a county’s ability to build community. SB 524 offers welcome State support to help further their aims. Already, libraries provide a safe place for our children to spend time after school and they offer early literacy programs for young children. They also provide internet access to the public and support for job-seekers and small business owners.

SB 524 describes incremental increases to accelerate State funding for libraries and regional resource centers, appropriates funds to help libraries continue to offer community services, and provides incentives for minors to continue use of library resources.

Stay tuned to Conduit Street for the latest.