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Central Rappahannock Regional Library eliminates fines on overdue materials

Central Rappahannock Regional Library’s Board of Trustees have approved a proposal to permanently eliminate fines on overdue materials. The library had eliminated fines for children’s and teen materials in July 2017 to support the educational development of children and teens in our area, and suspended fines on adult materials in March 2020 due to the onset of COVID and the difficulty in accepting returned materials.   CRRL has not reinstated fines since.  As of January 3, 2023, all fines currently on customers’ records will be waived and future fines on overdue materials will be eliminated. Fees will still be charged for lost or damaged materials.

“Eliminating fines supports CRRL’s mission of inclusivity and is an important step in making the library even more accessible, ” said Diana Risavi, Chair, Library Board.  Library Director Martha Hutzel says, “Studies have shown that low-income individuals and families are disproportionately affected by overdue fines, with people of color even more so. Eliminating fines allows us to address this inequity and remove a barrier to access.”

Library officials say studies have shown that eliminating fines reduces financial barriers and improves access for everyone.  “Overdue fines do not distinguish between people who are responsible and those who are not–they distinguish between people who have or do not have money,” said Curtis Rogers, former Communications Director of the Urban Libraries Council

Library officials say eliminating fines also often results in an influx of returned materials from cardholders whose accounts had previously accumulated fines, and increased requests for library cards from residents who would otherwise be concerned about accumulating fines.   Eliminating fines, they say,  also results in significant savings in staff salaries required to collect and process fines and the small amount of lost revenue will be addressed with other strategies.

Currently, 51% of Virginia public libraries have eliminated fines for all age levels, including Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, Richmond, and Williamsburg.

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