The Oakland Public Library system will stop charging overdue fees beginning July 1, following a move by dozens of libraries locally and nationwide.
The Oakland City Council voted in May to eliminate overdue fines for library materials. Jamie Turback, the library’s director of services, said the change will increase access for all readers. The system includes the main library, 16 branch locations and special collections.
“We want to spend our time serving people — not nickel-and-diming them because they are late in returning materials,” Turbak said in a statement. “Our library is now easier to access and we want everyone to feel confident and welcome to use their Oakland Public Library.”
A replacement fee will be charged if materials are missing 30 days past the due date, but the fee can be waived if the item is returned in good condition. Overdue fines will still be charged for tools through the Oakland Tool Lending Library, but the amount will be reduced.
The library system collected $77,600 in overdue fines between 2017 and 2018, but the amount of staff required to manage the system cost more than twice as much, according to the library.
A zip code analysis also showed that overdue fees were disproportionately impacting communities of color in Oakland. An adult in a non-white zip code was 5 percent more likely to have a blocked record due to fines, 26 percent more likely to owe fines, and 45 percent less likely to use their library card, according to the study.
“Removing overdue fines reduces the significant economic barriers to the free public library resources for all of Oakland, Piedmont and Emeryville’s communities,” the library said in a news release.
The move will be paired with an automatic renewal system, meaning any item without a hold can be automatically renewed up to three times. Patrons will receive updates at a registered email address, or via text message.
The library already has some evidence that the elimination of overdue fees will be effective. After removing fines for children members in 2017, the library saw the amount of youth cardholders increase by 17 percent, circulation of materials increase by 12 percent and no impact to the amount of unreturned items.
Libraries in San Mateo and Contra Costa counties have also eliminated fines, and Berkeley launched a program similar to Oakland’s last July.