Starting Feb. 1, the Hood River County Library District is going fine free for all patrons. “Fine free” means that patrons will not be fined daily for overdue materials. This change is a part of an institutional movement from libraries nationwide, guided by the recommendations of the American Library Association in an effort to increase free public access to library services.

HR Co. Library Dist. Fine Free library image

"The Library District is dedicated to providing free and equitable access to all," said Library Director Rachael Fox in a press release. "Our library will be fine-free for all patrons! This ensures that all patrons have access to library books and materials, which is our primary purpose as a public library. Studies in libraries that have eliminated fines show that there has been no impact on return rates. In fact, it can even increase use of library materials."

As a special gift to patrons during these challenging times, the Hood River County Library District will also erase all past overdue fines for patrons. This does not include past fees for lost or damaged items. Going fine free doesn’t mean that patrons do not have to bring their library materials back to the library. Items will still have a due date and materials will still need to be returned. There will be the added convenience of two automatic renewals if there are no holds. If an item is not returned, or is returned damaged, patrons will still be charged for lost or damaged items. This change is for all of the patrons of the Library District.

The decision to eliminate fines was made by the Library Board with staff input. Last fiscal year, the amount collected from fines was less than 1 percent of the Library District’s budget. The Hood River County Library District is not the first public library to go fine free. Other local public libraries like Multnomah County Library system and the Fort Vancouver Regional Library system, already have similar policies. In addition, national examples include public libraries like Chicago, Denver, and Seattle.

The Library District is committed to sharing information and resources with all members of our community, said Fox. Along with more than 64,000 books, the Hood River County Library District also has DVDs, board games, audiobooks, food preservation and cooking equipment, and tools that customers can check out. The Hood River County Library District also has a digital streaming service and eBooks, audiobooks that patrons can access. The Hood River County Library District also hosts special events and recurring programs every month for children, teens, and adults. These events are being held virtually during the pandemic. To encourage returning library patrons who may have lost their library cards, the Library District will no longer charge patrons for replacement library cards. All returning and new library patrons are invited to check out something new through Curbside Services.