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Change clears accounts for about 72,000 patrons and those whose accounts were blocked.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Multnomah County Library said Wednesday, July 1, that it would no long charge fines for late material.Say goodbye to library fines in Multnomah County.

The county library system said Wednesday, July 1, that it would stop charging late fines on all library materials. The library system is also clearing fines for 72,861 patrons and restoring access to accounts that were blocked because of fines. Patrons will continue to be billed for unreturned materials.

"Our public libraries exist to provide free and equal access to shared resources for everyone," said Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury. "And yet, the practice of assessing punitive fines for late returns has locked people out, many of whom are already facing hardships. The resources, support and sense of belonging found in our libraries are needed urgently during these trying times, and I'm grateful that this change will further open access to this community asset."

Library officials said they would drop about $730,185 in fines.

"We have watched closely as a growing body of research has shown that late fines don't work, that a large percentage can never be collected and that ending the practice doesn't increase the number of late returns," said Director of Libraries Vailey Oehlke. "This change will help Multnomah County Library truly serve its community in a free and equal way."

The Multnomah County Library has 19 locations, including downtown Portland's Central Library. The library district is funded by a property tax levy. The library's 2020 budget is about $88 million.

Last year, the library system collected about $548,755 in overdue fines. Overdue fine revenue has decreased over time (from nearly $1 million in 2016), as e-books and audiobooks have grown in popularity and since the library eliminated youth fines in 2016 and educator fines in 2018.

Library materials will still have due dates, officials said. For items that are not automatically renewed, and not returned 49 days after the due date, patrons will be charged replacement costs. Those fees are cleared if the items are returned.


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