The LA Public Library misses you so much, it'll waive your overdue fees

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If you’ve been avoiding the library because of an overdue book or outstanding late fees, you may be in luck.

In a rare move to get you back, the Los Angeles Public Library has announced it will waive the fines on overdue books and other materials if you return them between Feb. 1 and Feb. 14. It will also forgive any outstanding fees for materials you've returned but simply haven't paid for yet.

The amnesty program, dubbed “LAPL Misses You,” is being offered “in the spirit of love and Valentine’s Day,” but it’s also a bid to boost awareness of the library’s services and to encourage people to take advantage of them, says City Librarian John Szabo.

To take advantage of the program, you simply return any undamaged, overdue materials to the circulation desk or book drop at your local branch. The fees will be automatically waived and if there was a hold on your card, it will be lifted.

It’s likely been decades since the library last extended such an offer of amnesty, Szabo told KPCC. The goal of the program is to get people back who may have stopped using their library cards, whether out of embarrassment or inability to pay the requisite fees.

The library is currently missing more than 130,000 items that are either overdue or lost, according to Szabo. He wouldn’t say how much money that represents in fines, but he did say the library wasn’t much worried about the costs.

“It’s not, you know, an enormous amount of money as it relates to our budget,” Szabo said.

Szabo said they hope the program will particularly help entice people who may be avoiding the library because they can’t afford to pay their fines. Those same people may have children who are missing out on the library’s services too.

"We’re more in the business of making our collections and our services and our fantastic staff accessible at all 73 libraries, much more than we’re interested in collecting a $10 overdue fine or something like that," he said.

The future of public libraries — those bastions of paper and paper products — may seem dire in an increasingly digital world, but Szabo insists patronage is actually increasing.

Libraries have in part adapted to the digital revolution, for instance, by procuring more electronic media, such as e-books.

“Just as people for over 100 years have been able to come in the public library and pull a book off of the shelf and make use of it for free, the public library acquires that e-content and makes it available for free,” Szabo said.

With e-books, you also don’t have to worry about late fees, since they automatically disappear from your device when they expire.

In addition to offering digital content such as e-books, music and streaming videos, the public library is becoming a hub for programs and services.

Library patrons can now access classes, exhibits and cultural programs. Recent immigrants can even take classes to help them prepare for citizenship.

But for those who just want to make those nasty fines disappear, here are the details:

Fees that can be forgiven:

  • overdue fines
  • hold-shelf expired fees
  • TechKiosk devices returned late (but not any devices that were removed from the building)

Fees not included:

  • fees for materials NOT returned
  • $15 fee from Unique National Collections
  • fees for damaged or unusable items

You may also be able to offer the library a replacement copy of an item you lost. Check with your local branch.

And if you lost your library card, you can get a free replacement during the dates of the amnesty program.

You can read a complete FAQ on the LAPL website.

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