County library system closes the book on ‘overdue’ fines

By Bobby Bryant, Editor

Starting this week, that overdue book you checked out from the library won’t cost you anything when you bring it back. Beginning Aug. 1, the Darlington County Library System has quit charging “overdue” fines on any materials checked out from any of its facilities in Darlington, Hartsville, Lamar and Society Hill. And if you have a stack of old overdue fines piled up on your account? They’re going away. The library system will “remove all outstanding overdue fines on customer accounts.” The whole idea is to cut down on “barriers” to using a public library, says county library director Jimmie Epling. The Darlington County Library Board of Trustees OK’d the change during its July meeting. “The Library wants to eliminate barriers that may prevent Darlington County residents from using their library. Removing overdue fines does that,” Epling said in a statement. “ … By eliminating all overdue fines, we can help promote literacy in our community by allowing more people to enjoy our materials for education, enrichment and inspiration.” He said the county library system dropped overdue fines on all children’s materials in June 2017 for a summer reading program. “The community’s reaction … was so overwhelmingly positive that we never reinstated them.” Libraries started charging overdue fines to prod customers toward returning books or other materials on time, but eventually learned the fines could also discourage people from using libraries. “Many” public libraries that have eliminated overdue fines “have seen an increase in library use and circulation of materials,” the Darlington County Library System says. But the county system will continue to send out reminders, by e-mail or postal mail, if material is overdue. And anyone who loses or damages something checked out from a library will still be responsible for replacement costs. The country seems to be moving away from the idea of overdue fines at libraries, some studies indicate. More and more, library personnel are seeing the fines as a roadblock for the poor. In 2019, the American Library Association – with about 55,000 members – OK’d a resolution criticizing overdue fines “as a form of social inequity.”

Author: Rachel Howell

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