By Michael Smith
Beginning on New Year’s Day, Hillsborough County Public Libraries no longer charge late fines on overdue materials.
While the library expects to save money by not assessing fines, Director of Library Services Andrew Breidenbaugh said that’s not the main benefit of this change.
“The real benefit to the community will be the expanded access that we are able to provide. Libraries are not just about buildings and books; libraries are about people and community, and creating an environment where prosperity can be realized,” he said.
“We want to remove as many barriers to access as possible and late fines can be an unnecessary barrier. The overwhelming majority of library customers borrows and returns materials responsibly and on time. For those who don’t, fines are not a deterrent – the only thing that is effective to getting library materials back is not being able to borrow more items.”
Effective Monday, January 1, 2018:
* Checkout loan periods have not changed, and the grace period has been extended from seven to eight days.
* You can check out a total of 35 items.
* You can now place holds on 35 items at a time.
* Any items that you have checked out will automatically renew two days prior to their due date as long as nobody else is waiting for them.
If borrowers don’t return their overdue materials by the end of the grace period, their account will be locked and they won’t be able to borrow library materials or use digital resources OverDrive, hoopla, Freading, RB Digital and Lynda.com. Locked account holders can still use library computers and access some online databases.
But once the item is returned, the current late fees of 20 cents a day and a maximum of $5 per item won’t be owed. Borrowers will still be charged for lost or damaged materials.
If you find a lost item that you have already paid for, the item now belongs to you. No refunds will be issued for lost item payments.
Fines posted to borrowers’ accounts prior to January 1, 2018 will remain. Fines can be paid online or at any library self-checkout kiosk using a debit or credit card. Payments by check or money order can be mailed to: HCPLC Library Administration, 102 E. 7th Ave., Tampa, FL 33602.
Breidenbaugh told the Tampa Bay Times that although Hillsborough County takes in about $285,000 in fines a year, it costs more in staff time and processing to charge those overdue fees.
For more information, visit hcplc.org or call 273-3652.