The Cumberland County Public Library system is no longer charging late fees for standard resource materials, like books and DVDs, and is forgiving all current accounts as well.
The move comes as the library system works to be able to better provide resources for the community, and follows the lead of many other systems around the country, and at least 18 other systems around the state – including Robeson County.
“We want everyone in our community to be able to access our library resources and materials. I am so grateful to the Board of County Commissioners and county leadership for recognizing the need to remove this barrier to access,” said Public Library Director Faith Phillips. “I invite everyone to the library and to return their long overdue items.”
Previously, Cumberland County Library charged 20 cents per day late fees per item, with a $5 maximum per item charged. After $10 in fees were accumulated, people could no longer check out materials. Phillips said that about one-third of all library card accounts are inactive likely because of maximum late fee situations. There will still be late fees on items like laptops, hotspots and Playaway Launchpads.
“Approximately 34% of our library card holders are inactive, with fees that prohibit them from using our resources,” the library said in its presentation to the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners. “We cannot assume that all of these card holders went inactive because of large fines, but it is reasonable to assume that a number of these customers are no longer users because they accrued late fees and were unable to pay them back, therefore being prohibited from using our resources.”
The move is designed to help bring people back to the library system, who otherwise may have felt like they couldn’t.
“Charging late fees on materials is a barrier to access that does not promote diversity, equity and inclusion of all community members,” the presentation said. “The practice, which is no longer industry standard and could negatively affect our reputation within the state, is not a fiscally responsible return on investment. Library systems that have gone late-fee free have experienced a huge return of customers, broken down barriers to access, increased the community members they serve, experienced a huge amount of good will within the community, ensured their practices meet industry standards and been fiscally responsible.”
The move is not expected to negatively impact the system financially too much, as Cumberland County expects to make up much of it by no longer paying a collection agency, and applying for additional grants.
According to the library, September is National Library Card Sign Up Month and Cumberland County Public Library is inviting all residents to come and join the library. This card will give you access to technology, resources and services to help encourage expression, enlightenment, and exploration.
For more information about signing up for your library card, returning long overdue items, or in-person and virtual programs at the library, please visit the library’s website at cumberlandcountync.gov/library and follow them on social media.