The Roanoke Valley Libraries (RVL) Consortium, consisting of libraries in Botetourt County, City of Roanoke, City of Salem, and Roanoke County, has announced that effective July 1, 2022, there will no longer be fines for overdue library materials at any RVL branch. In addition, fines accrued prior to that date will be canceled. Patrons will be charged, however, for items that are lost or damaged while in their possession.
“This is our way of removing any reading barriers,” states Sheila S. Umberger, Director of Roanoke Public Libraries. “Going fine-free will allow more people to enjoy our materials. It is imperative to create an environment that is welcoming, rather than punitive.”
“We are pleased to be able to eliminate the financial stress of strict due dates,” says Ann Tripp, Director of the Salem Public Library. “Patrons will continue to be charged for lost or damaged items, however, we trust the community will continue to return the items, and on-time, so others may enjoy access to the library collection.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, all Roanoke area libraries suspended late fees for overdue items. This decision was made due to the difficulty patrons had in returning items to the libraries which were closed or offered limited services, and with the realization that many people in the workforce were temporarily or permanently laid off.
“Charging late fees can serve as a barrier to accessing library resources,” noted Toni Cox, Acting Director of Roanoke County Public Libraries. “Vulnerable populations, including children who have limited access to internet, digital devices, and transportation are most at risk of accruing late fees.”
Public libraries, both locally and nationally, have reported success following the elimination of late fee fines. “Going fine-free allows people to return overdue materials without embarrassment or the concern of not being able to afford even a small penalty,” states Julie Phillips, Director of Botetourt County Public Libraries. “Interestingly enough, we find more materials are returned by not charging late fees.” In many libraries across the country, the elimination of late fees has proven to generate increased visits, higher circulation, and an uptick in the number of library cards issued.