The Frederick County Public Libraries will no longer charge overdue fees on children’s materials, starting Oct. 1.
The change in fees comes as part of library changes aimed at improving access to the library, Director James Kelly.
Getting rid of library fines for children materials is a nationwide trend, Kelly said. Some libraries, including Pratt Library in Baltimore, have waived fees altogether. Frederick County Public Libraries is not there yet, he said, as fees do make up part of their annual budget.
Adult materials and young adult items still carry fines if they are overdue.
But fees were becoming a barrier to access because not everyone could afford to pay incurred fines, he said.
“It’s not only about folks that have fines or have had fines in the past, but we know from our experience that there are individuals in the community, families in the community who don’t currently access materials out of fear of fines,” Kelly said.
Fines incurred before Oct. 1 will still need to be paid, he said. The change is not retroactive.
The library system has also extended the amount of times people can renew materials, increasing from five to 10. Library card holders can now check out an unlimited number of items and place an unlimited number of holds.
Before, library patrons could check out 75 items at any time and place 25 holds. Most materials can be checked out for 21 days.
Not everything is changing, Kelly said. People who check out an item, even a children’s one, will have to be an item replacement charge if the item is not returned within 45 days after the last renewal.
If a person puts a hold on the item, it cannot be renewed, Kelly said.
Children who read are better prepared for kindergarten, he said. Approximately 63 percent of children from low-income households in Frederick were not “ready to learn” when they entered kindergarten, according to a release from the library system.
Frederick County Public Libraries has a partnership with Frederick County Public Schools to offer three items to students that will not incur late fees, Kelly said.
Without late fees, children can continue to use a book or other item they might need for a school assignment without worrying about how much it will cost to keep the book, said Mary Jo Richmond, library media services supervisor.
She is “thrilled” about the announcement, she said.
Like Kelly, she said that removing late fees will help increase access.
Reading is something that should be integrated into family life, said Laurie Fisher, executive director of the Literacy Council of Frederick County. Reading at a young age is good for children.
“It helps them to be ready for kindergarten and learning in general,” Fisher said.
The Literacy Council works to help with adult literacy, but helping parents to read allows them to teach their child, she said.
“If you teach a parent, you reach a child,” she said.
For those who have outstanding fines, even though they will not be absolved by the new changes, the library will work with cardholders to help them with paying it off, Kelly said.
Access to the library has grown, with last year seeing the highest circulation, but still there are people they have not reached. With the new program, Kelly said he hopes to bring those people to the library.