Late fees on children’s material eliminated at New Hanover Co. Public Library

The New Hanover County Public Library eliminated late fees on children materials. The director of the library talks about why.
Published: Jul. 14, 2021 at 5:37 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Late fees will no longer be collected on children materials at the New Hanover County Public Library.

As of July 1, the New Hanover County Public Library is not charging people for overdue children’s materials checked out from the library.

The move is something that library director Paige Owens wanted to make for some time now.

“A confluence of events led to us see this happen this year,” she said. “I first became aware of this about 2016 at the Public Library Association conference. There was a lot of talk about this. Some libraries around the country started going fine free in various ways. We have been watching our budget and seeing if this was something that we could realistically do in New Hanover County. With the county’s emphasis on early learning for lifelong resiliency and our commitment to diversity and equity and inclusion, it seemed like a really good way for us to go in New Hanover County.”

Owens said the pandemic gave the library the time to explore the move and coordinate the plan. The library also put new procedures in place during that time.

“During the pandemic, we introduced automatic renewals so that if a person has not reached their maximum renewal, which is two on almost all materials, and there are no holds on the item, the item automatically renews,” she said. “That helps people avoid fines. We’ve also set up alerts so the people get a friendly reminder the day before their items are due because the bottom line is what we really need is to get the materials back. We want other people to be able to enjoy using the materials and we’re not really in the business of making money off of overdue library books.”

Owens said other libraries found that even without fines, patrons are returning the materials.

“Surprisingly, libraries who have gone fine free have discovered that materials still come back,” she said.

She said if a person holds onto an item for too long, it will go into a “lost” status. At that point, the library will charge for the missing materials.

“We have to be good stewards of the taxpayer dollars and these are materials that other people want to use as well but research does show that materials come back,” she said.

Library Hours Extended

Owens also highlighted that beginning Monday, August 2, all New Hanover County Public Library locations will begin new operating hours:

  • Monday-Thursday: 10 a.m.-7 p.m.
  • Friday-Saturday: 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • Sunday: 1-5 p.m.

“We will be extending our hours and opening on Sunday afternoons, which is something we haven’t been able to do since the start of the pandemic,” said Owens. “We know many of our patrons are excited and ready for these new hours, and we are too.”

Return of popular Friends of the Library Book Sale

Owens also announced the return of a popular event, which supports the public library.

The Friends of the Library (FOL) Book Sale is set to return the last two weekends of August.

“We are not able to have sales during Covid and the donations have been piling up so there’s a lot of to choose from,” she said.

The event kicks off at 5:30 p.m. on Fri., Aug. 20 at the Northeast Library for members of the FOL. Then, the event is open to the public Aug. 21-22 and Aug. 27-29.

For more details, click here.

The library will continue to accept book donations by appointment only, based on space limitations.

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