Following in the footsteps of reopening library locations for pick-ups and accepting returns, Multnomah County Library (MCL) announced it will permanently stop charging late fines on all library materials, clear all existing fines and restore access to accounts that had been blocked because of fines.

Unreturned items, however, will result in their cost being charged to the borrowing patron.

The move was spurred by a growing body of research that showed late fines don’t work and puts the MCL in a position to truly provide free and equal access to all members of the community.

A total of $730,185 in debt was removed from 72,861 patron accounts and library access was restored to the 2,000+ patrons who had their accounts blocked to fines in excess of $50.

MCL’s revenue from fines was nearly $1 million in 2016. Since then, the growth in popularity of e-books and audiobooks and the elimination of youth and educator fines have resulted in a significant decrease in revenue from fines. For fiscal year 2019 MCL collected $548,755 in fines.

Although the monetary penalty has been removed, library materials will still have due dates and patrons are encouraged to return their library materials within the checkout period. Items will automatically renew if there are no holds on the item once it is due.

For items that become overdue, patrons will have 49 days to return them to avoid being charged for the cost of their replacement. That cost, however, would be cleared if the items were returned.