The Tulare County Library will no longer have late fees.
Come July 1, the library will no longer charge for items checked out and returned past their due dates at any location, the library announced last week.
This is the first library in the Central Valley to eliminate late fees, joining more than 50 libraries nationwide.
The other libraries in California that got rid of the fees are Oakland, San Diego, San Luis Obispo and San Mateo County.
The Tulare County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved of axing the late fees at the April 30 meeting.
County Librarian Darla Wegener said late fees creates a barrier for patrons and does not provide an incentive for returning books and materials on time.
“That negative experience could lead to the loss of that patron and the loss of their entire family,” Wegener said. “This is in direct conflict with our mission as a public library to provide information in a positive, customer-centered, free library.”
Under the old system, individuals could accumulate late fines and fees, which would block them from using free library services such as borrowing materials, using the computers and searching online databases.
The library said its resources include aiding in adult literacy, early literacy, school readiness for children, lifelong learning for school, job skills and employment resources.
The library collected about $54,000 in late fees in 2018. Staff spent about 8 percent of their time collecting overdue fees, which totalled about $47,000 spent.
Staff will be able to focus on providing better library services, programs and community outreach, the library said.
Although the late fees are being eliminated, individuals are still expected to return their materials on time. At 45 days after the due date, the library will send out a bill for the replacement cost and a processing fee.
Individuals are still responsible for past outstanding fines and fees on their account.