LA County Library Student Patrons Can Wave Goodbye to Library Fines

County-run libraries in LA are providing young patrons a way to read off their late fees without dipping into their piggy banks. The Read Away program allows young people to sign in and read books to reduce their late fees at the rate of $5 per hour. When the student tires of reading, she lets the librarian know and the librarian totals up the amount to be subtracted from the student’s overdue fine.

When library fines reach $10, the users’ borrowing privileges are suspended. Many children just stopped accessing the library’s borrowing system when the fines reached that level. Children from financially struggling families were even less likely to pay the fines, resulting in an economic disadvantage regarding access to checking out library materials. Since the Read Away program went into action, 3,500 previously blocked accounts have been cleared in the county library system.

Reaction to the Read Away program has been largely positive. East LA librarian, Aleah Jurnecka, reports that at least 100 students read away library debt each week, at the East L.A. Library. Parents appreciate the Read Away program, expressing that it reduces the burden on the family, regarding the accumulation of fines. 80% of surveyed parents indicated they were more likely to allow their children to check out library materials due to the more lenient policies on library fines.

Institution of the Read Away program doesn’t mean the library has completely forgotten about past due fines. Once a user accumulates $50 or more in library fines, the matter is handed over to a collection agency. The goal is to work with families before the account reaches that state.

In a society where technical devices dominate many children’s lives, LA librarians hope to encourage a love of reading books and a familiarity with using the libraries resources. Offering students across all economic statuses a chance to fully access library materials, plays an important role in making that happen.


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