Omaha Public Library (OPL) has not charged fines on overdue materials since closing its doors in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Upon OPL’s reopening in September 2020, the Board of Trustees—the nine-member body which governs OPL—voted to continue waiving daily overdue fines until library operations returned to normal, without restrictions due to Directed Health Measures or capacity limits. During their monthly meeting on March 18, 2021, the board unanimously voted in favor of a resolution to make OPL fines free permanently. The action is retroactive, thereby waiving existing daily overdue fines on library accounts.
The elimination of daily overdue fines intends to alleviate barriers to using the library and to encourage patrons to return library materials without fear of punitive action. Other fees associated with the replacement of missing items (not returned after 21 days overdue) or damaged materials will still be charged.
“Overdue fines only accounted for a fraction of a percent of OPL’s overall budget,” said OPL Executive Director Laura Marlane. “This change will not adversely affect OPL’s budget, but it will help to the ease the burden of an additional expense during a time when many people are working to restore normalcy to their lives.”
Following the vote by OPL’s Board of Trustees, the resolution is subject to approval by Omaha’s City Council. Should the resolution gain City Council approval, OPL administration will then implement policies and procedures to eliminate daily overdue fines. In the meantime, overdue fines will not be charged.