Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis on Tuesday voiced strong support for Harris County Public Library’s (HCPL’s) decision to permanently discontinue assessing late fees for customers who return items after the due date.
“Libraries should be a place where everyone feels welcome, and where everyone can use the resources available,” Commissioner Ellis said. “When people owe late fees, they may fear taking advantage of all the library has to offer.”
Commissioners Court voted to approve the measure that puts HCPL in the company of Houston and other public libraries nationwide that stopped charging late fines, including New York, San Diego, Nashville, Baltimore, San Francisco and League City.
HCPL has not charged fines for overdue items since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Today’s policy change permanently abolishes late fees.
Commissioner Ellis said eliminating library fines increases access for low-income users and children, encourages greater attendance and library use, and increases the return of library books.
“Fines create financial barriers that discourage attendance and keep people from valuable resources—especially people who may most need the library’s free resources,“ Commissioner Ellis said. “I commend Executive Director Edward Melton for proposing this permanent change to a fine-free policy and for ensuring that our libraries continue to fill in the gaps for our communities.”