Brambleton Library

The new Brambleton Library in Ashburn

Thousands of Loudoun County Public Library customers may soon have relief after the Loudoun County finance committee recommended the library's Board of Trustees eliminate the requirement for all overdue fines.

If the Library Board of Trustees is awarded the opportunity by the Board of Supervisors, trustees may chose to eliminate fines for 8,794 patrons adding up to thousands of dollars.

Library services will continue to enforce billing and collection for lost items going forward. Officials will also block patron card access if items are not returned or paid with “a reasonable time period.”

“Fines are being eliminated and that’s certainly true, but I also think it’s important to note that consequences are not being eliminated,” Dulles Supervisor Matthew Letourneau (R) said. “It is not as if it’s a free for all and you can come and take out a book and not have to return it –you still will get billed.”

Loudoun’s libraries charge customers who return or renew items after the due date 10 cents per day, per item, with a maximum fine of $5 per item. Customers are also financially responsible for lost or damaged items and are subject to have their library cards blocked when $10 or more in fines is incurred and unpaid. Some of those items include CDs, DVDs and e-materials.

The decision to eliminate the collection of overdue fines would impact revenue for the county, causing an estimated $262,000 loss in revenue.

Funds collected from fines has decreased in recent years as a result of more people utilizing online resources and e-books that return automatically and do not accrue fines, according to county staff.

Library Services reduced the overdue fines revenue budgeted for fiscal 2020 by $10,500 to $315,000 because of the downward trend related to the significant increase in patrons’ use of online resources and e-books.

The committee’s recommendation to eliminate the overdue fines will be up for a vote at a future Board of Supervisors meeting. If approved, the library trustees will then have the option to decide at its June 17 meeting if it will eliminate the requirement to collect fines.

The finance committee also recommended no changes to appropriations to Library Services for fiscal 2020 and directed county staff to monitor budget impacts.

The committee voted 3-0-1-1 on Tuesday with Vice Chairman Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn) abstaining and Blue Ridge Supervisor Tony Buffington (R) absent.

“All taxpayers will be paying for the fact that people don’t return library materials versus those who are guilty of not returning library materials, and I have a fundamental problem with that, and that’s essentially what does happen here,” Buona said.

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Correction: An earlier version of this story implied the Board of Supervisors would decide whether libraries eliminated overdue fines. Instead, the Board of Supervisors may award the Public Library Board of Trustees the opportunity to eliminate the requirement to collect overdue fines. The next trustees meeting is ‪June 17.‬ Should the Board of Trustees decide to eliminate the requirement to collect fines, Library Services will need longer than July 1 to take action, according to county staff.
 

(4) comments

Delores DeLago

I'd like to know what the incentive is for eliminating the fines. How does that benefit the library, or the county overall? It seems like losing that revenue would hurt more than help. I took the survey on the library website, which asked whether or not eliminating fines would result in you visiting the library more. I doubt fines would really keep many people away. Though it's good that they will still charge for lost books. The survey didn't say anything about that. By the way, as a response to an earlier comment, libraries are not a dying industry. It's possible that the circulation of print books has decreased (I don't know, having not seen the numbers), but there are many other reasons to use the library. Free events for adults, teens, and children, free e-materials, free access to databases that normally require an expensive subscription, private study rooms and meeting rooms, and some branches have areas where teens can play video games, and also maker spaces for crafty-type folks. Take a look at the website. It's not just books anymore (though even if it was, that's reason enough to go).

Chris McHale

If Buona is fundamentally opposed to it, why did he abstain. Why not vote No against something you don't agree with.

KCLathome

We LOVE our Library and always get great service! No fines is exciting but wish I'd known this when I paid about $20 for family and kids earlier this week. Hope something can be done to make up the budget money. Maybe a fund raiser? We need our libraries.

Loudounian

I'd like to know where that money is going to come from or how it's going to be made up?? What's the plan??
The library seems to be scaling back its offerings: my family went to the brand new library and the shelves were more than half empty, maybe 3 staff total for the whole building to help us find what we were searching for (and it wasn't there), and teenagers hanging from the ceiling. I'm surprised they're willing to give up that funding as it seems needed but then again it's a dying industry anyway.

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