There's a "change" coming to the Mesa County Libraries in 2020, and this one affects your wallet.

Have you ever been discouraged about using the local libraries because of late fines? Well, as of January 1, 2020, those late fines will magically evaporate. Mesa County Libraries will stop charging overdue fines on books and other items. On top of that, all accumulated fines for overdue materials will be waived as of January 1.

According to a press release, Mesa County Libraries are eliminating overdue fines in order to increase patron access to library resources.

 “Eliminating fines will help people who need the library most regain full access to library services. We know that some patrons accumulate overdue fines because of factors such as their financial situation or inability to find timely transportation to a library location. Restricting library use by individuals in hardship situations does not provide an incentive to return materials or pay accumulated fines.” - Library Director Michelle Boisvenue-Fox.

Will anyone be affected by this in the short term? Absolutely. Library privileges will be restored to about 2,800 Mesa County residents who are blocked from further checkouts because of accumulated fines exceeding $10.

“In addition, we have anecdotal evidence that some patrons who owe fines are reluctant to use the library. It is our belief that no one should feel discouraged from using library resources because of accumulated overdue fines. Fines were never intended to serve as a deterrent to using the library.” - Library Director Michelle Boisvenue-Fox.

Before we all get too excited, let's pause for a moment. The new policy applies only to fines incurred from failure to return materials on time. If you have charges for damaged, unreturned, or incomplete items, those fees will remain in place. In addition, items borrowed from other libraries, for example, those acquired via interlibrary loan, are still subject to the rules of the loaning libraries.

What are the current charges for overdue materials? According to mesacountylibraries.org, late fees are 10 cents per item for each day after the due date with a 5-day grace period. The website provides the following example: An overdue book returned on the 6th day after the due date would result in a fine of .60 cents.

Do Mesa County Libraries make big bucks off of late fines? Not really. Fines total roughly 1% of Mesa County Libraries’ $7 million annual budget.

So does this mean people can hold on to books as long as they want, and return them if and when they get around to it? Not hardly. According to the press release, even once the new policy has taken effect, library patrons will still be expected to return items on or before the due date. Notifications and reminders will continue to be sent to patrons, and items not returned 30 days after they are due will be billed to the patron. Borrowing privileges will be blocked for any patron who has billed items exceeding $10.

I sincerely hope you'll utilize the various Mesa County Libraries in 2020. The older I get, the more I appreciate this resource. If transportation issues have prevented you from using the library in the past, this change might just make the library more accessible. Put it to good use.

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