The Natrona County Library will no longer levy fines for overdue books and other materials, its director said Thursday.

"It's been something I've been considering for a long time," Lisa Scroggins said.

Libraries began issuing fines for overdue materials so people would return them so others could use them, Scroggins said.

"That's a good goal, but it really didn't accomplish what it intended to," she said.

There was this guilt problem.

People would check out an item, forget about it, see there was a fine for being overdue, feel bad, maybe not be able to afford the fine, and then avoid the library, Scroggins said.

"What it became was a barrier to access," she said. "What I'm trying to do is remove that barrier to access to all of our materials."

Lisa Scroggins. Tom Morton, Townsquare Media
Lisa Scroggins. Tom Morton, Townsquare Media

The public pays taxes to buy  and maintain those materials, Scroggins said. "We are the custodians of those materials for the community and the people who borrow them. We don't want to have any barriers for people to come in and do just that."

If an item is overdue, the library will automatically renew it, but it will ask people to return that item if someone else wants it, she said.

Likewise, if someone loses or damages an item, the borrower will have to pay for that, Scroggins said.

According to a news release from the library, studies have shown eliminating late fines often increases both the return and the use of library materials. That also increases library use by those who chose not to borrow materials out of fear of accruing fines.

he change also keeps with the Natrona County Public Library's mission to advocate for literacy, education and a thriving community, and to provide free and equitable access to everyone.

The Library joins those in Converse, Johnson, Lincoln, Niobrara, Sublette, and Sweetwater counties that have gone fine-free. Nationally, public libraries in Chicago, Denver, and Seattle have done the same.

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