LA Libraries Will Stop Charging Late Fees And Forgive Your Past-Due Sins

(Courtesy Kansas Sebastian via Flickr)

In an effort to improve equitable access to its public libraries, Los Angeles has decided to stop charging late fees for past-due books and other materials.

The new rules for the Los Angeles Public Library are set to take effect in spring 2020 and any outstanding late fees will be absolved, according to a press release from Mayor Eric Garcetti's office.

LAPL will also allow materials to be checked out longer, upping the number of times material can be renewed from two to three (unless a specific item is requested by someone else).

A $10 non-refundable fine for lost items will be eliminated, but library patrons are not absolved of all responsibility. Separate lost fees, defined as "the replacement costs for materials that are more than 45 days overdue from the last renewal," will remain in place, and patrons are still on the hook for any damaged materials.

"Our library is a civic and cultural treasure, and everyone in the city should be able to share in the wealth of information, enrichment, and entertainment in our collection," Garcetti said in a statement. "We are ending these fines because patrons show care and integrity in the handling of these precious materials — and nothing should stand in the way of Angelenos who want to share in all the library has to offer."

(Courtesy jpellgen via Flickr Creative Commons)

City officials said removing the fines means removing a barrier for "families and individuals with limited resources" who historically have been "disproportionately impacted" by the fines. The goal is to encourage more Angelenos to access the city's 73 library branches.

"At the Los Angeles Public Library... we welcome everyone, and we are all about equity, access, opportunity, empowerment and lifelong learning," City Librarian John F. Szabo said in a statement. "By removing barriers and going fine-free, we will be better able to serve everyone in Los Angeles."

The policy changes are not expected to impact the LAPL's bottom line since revenue from late fees makes up less than 1% of its operating budget, according to city officials.

L.A. joins a growing number of U.S. cities lifting late fee rules in a push for better equity and access. A similar move was already made in the region. Back in 2017, L.A. County's library system waived all late fees for patrons 21 and under.