Libraries say farewell to overdue fines

As of January 2, Whatcom County Library System (WCLS) stopped the practice of charging people for returning library materials after their due date. The change is to broaden access to library books and services, and meant to help ensure that everyone has access to public library services. 

“We began talking to patrons about this change toward the end of 2019, and the response has been positive,” Rebecca Judd, Bellingham Public Library director, said. “Our community supports our goal to improve access to libraries for all Bellingham and Whatcom County residents – regardless of their circumstances.”

When the pending change was announced in November 2019, Rick Osen, chair of the Bellingham Public Library Board of Trustees, said: “We believe our community is stronger when everyone has easy access to the public library and the information and services they need to pursue their goals.”

Marvin Waschke, chair of WCLS Board of Trustees, added, “We want to welcome people back to the library, people who may have been avoiding the library or are blocked from using the library because they have overdue fines or because they are concerned about accruing fines.”

Existing overdue account balances have also been eliminated, ensuring a fresh start for all.

While overdue fees are an inconvenience to some, to others with limited incomes, they are a barrier to accessing the library. Many libraries across the country are removing this financial barrier.

Marvin Waschke, chair of WCLS Board of Trustees, added, “We want to welcome people back to the library, people who may have been avoiding the library or are blocked from using the library because they have overdue fines or because they are concerned about accruing fines.”

“We understand that it’s sometimes hard to return materials to the library,” WCLS Executive Director Christine Perkins said. “Weather, family demands, schedule changes; life has a way of confounding our best plans. Some community members are also challenged by uncertain housing or transportation.”

For more information, visit a local library branch or visit the library system’s website, wcls.org.

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