Garfield County Libraries Go Fine Free to Start the New Year

grandfather reading to grandson

As we ring in the New Year, your Garfield County Libraries will ring in a new age of library access for the community. The Library Board recently decided to eliminate charges for overdue materials. This comes as a result of library staff continuing to look for ways to remove barriers in connecting residents with the books and information they need to live happy, healthy lives.

“We know we have people in our communities who have stopped using our libraries because they have overdue charges on their accounts. Other residents are fearful of using the library at all because they worry that a family member might forget when an item is overdue and return it late,” said Brett Lear, Executive Director of Garfield County Libraries. “Now, more than ever, we also know that people are turning to their libraries for information on COVID-19, for books and movies to help with isolating at home, and for public computers and loanable hotspots that help people get online and connect with others. We want to make our libraries available and welcoming to everyone.

Research shows that libraries that have gone fine free often experience an increase in usage. For example, Denver Public Library eliminated fines in 2019 and reported that thirty-five percent of patrons with overdue charges who had stopped using their services ended up re-engaging with their libraries within the first twelve months.

“We know that late fines, no matter how small, can be a significant barrier to checking out books and enjoying libraries,” said Whitney Jordan, Garfield County Libraries’ Library Collection Manager. “With this change we hope to demonstrate our commitment to being a welcoming environment for all residents, regardless of socioeconomic status or the ability to travel to one of our locations at specific times.”

Garfield County Libraries remains committed to sustaining its collection of library books and movies and maximizing public access to these materials. Due dates for library materials will remain in place, and if someone does not return a book, DVD, or other item, then a replacement charge will be added to their account after 60 days past due in order to cover the cost of a replacement. These due dates and charges will remain in place so that library materials will continue to be returned, available, and shared by everyone.

Garfield County Libraries encourage you to stop by your local branch and see all that is available for free with a library card. From fantasy novels to online movies to escape everyday life, from books for school to online homework help with a live tutor, and from public computers to loanable hotspots, your libraries have wonderful, new resources to help you start the year.



What does “fine free” actually mean?
As of January 1, 2021 there will be no more overdue charges for materials that are kept past their due dates.

What if I had old fines on my library card account?
All previously accrued overdue charges have been removed from all library card accounts. This does not include replacement charges for lost materials. Library customers are still responsible for any lost or damaged items.

What if I request materials from other libraries?
All materials requested through your Garfield County Libraries account follow our loan rules and will not be subject to overdue charges.

Are there still due dates?
Yes. Our libraries will continue to have due dates for materials, and we expect items to be returned on time, or renewed, when appropriate. Our libraries are a sharing institution and this helps us make materials available to all members of our community in a timely fashion.

Will you remind me when my items need to be returned?
Yes. The libraries will continue to send reminders about upcoming due dates and materials that are overdue.

What happens if I miss a due date?
After 60 days the library will consider the item(s) “lost” and you will see a materials replacement charge added to your account for each associated item. This will mean your library card borrowing privileges will be suspended. Return the item(s) and all charges will be removed from your account.

Will there be any fees or charges at all?
Yes. Lost, unreturned, and damaged items will be charged replacement costs. Other charges (including printing and copying) will also remain in effect.

What if I have a book that I never returned?
Return the item and the charges associated with it will be removed from your account.

Without fines will people just keep library books forever?
We know that our residents value their libraries and our libraries’ books and materials. . We also trust that our residents value personal responsibility, sharing, and maximizing public access to public property. Other libraries that have gone fine free in Colorado have found that eliminating fines has actually encouraged people to return overdue materials. We will continue to charge materials replacement fees when books and materials are not returned or damaged.

Will this new policy affect the waiting list for popular books?
Probably not. Other Colorado libraries have found no correlation between the elimination of fines and an increase in late returns or longer wait times. We expect the same results in our wonderful community!

Doesn’t the library rely on money from fines to balance the budget?
No. Far less than one percent of our annual revenue comes from fines collected for overdue materials.


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