Washington County libraries eliminate fines
Fines at Washington County libraries have been eliminated on all library materials, following months of discussion.
"Libraries are for everyone," Lisa Tattersall, manager of Washington County Cooperative Library Services, declared in an announcement of the new policy. "This is a landmark step in our mission to eliminate patrons' barriers wherever we can — and this will remove the barrier for thousands of them. We want our patrons back."
The issue went before the Washington County Cooperative Library Services executive board last year, with discussion focused on studies that show overdue fines are most likely to restrict access for communities of color and/or those with lower incomes.
"Public libraries historically assessed overdue fines in order to incentivize the timely return to library materials," a report presented to the executive committee concluded at the time. "However, there is no current data that shows overdue fines achieve this goal; in fact, overdue fines are counterproductive and keep users away from the library."
Washington County libraries are committed to equity and inclusion, Tattersall's news release stated.
The Washington County Board of Commissioners formally approved the fine elimination proposal on Dec. 15, 2020.
Some 12,000 county residents whose accounts have been suspended because of fines have had their access restored, effective as of this week, WCCLS announced.
Fines for children's items were discontinued in June 2017. Once the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Washington County Cooperative Library Services paused its enforcement of all fines.
Local librarians championed the elimination of fines on a permanent basis.
Last fall, Tigard Public Library Director Halsted Bernard said that almost 3% of her library's patrons would have access to libraries again if the no-fines measure was passed, noting that fines are "one of the most negative aspects of a patron's relationship with the library."
Likewise, Tualatin Public Library Director Jerianne Thompson told her City Council last summer that the amount collected in fines is less than 1% of the library's budget and that they could "absorb this loss of revenue."
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