BILLINGS — In March of 2020, the Billings Public Library experimented with temporarily waiving late fees. Now, they’ve made that move permanent.
“We feel like the fines were punishing people who were adhering to the system, and we wanted to make sure especially teenagers and frequent flyers of the library continue to have that access. So, it’s definitely about making sure people come to the library more, it’s about honoring folks that bring their materials back, and I think it will be really good for the library,” said Assistant Director Hannah Stewart-Freeman.
In recent years, public libraries in a growing number of large cities across the country, such as New York, San Francisco and Denver, have been eliminating late fees. Most say they experience a huge increase in people returning overdue books and the Billings Public Library has been no different.
“We saw people bring their things back and it got us thinking. We thought well, this really does work. It doesn’t impact our budget enough to make it a priority for us, so we thought let’s see how it goes. So for the last year and a half or so, during that Covid umbrella, we did a test run and it worked really well. People brought their stuff back and were overjoyed and very grateful,” said Stewart-Freeman.
Stanley Eagle Jr. frequents the Billings Public Library and is happy that they have done away with late fees.
“I think it's good. I’ve had late fees before,” said Eagle. “That’s cool, I mean I like it, it’ll bring more people in, I mean what else can you say; people like this place.”
To check out a book you still need to have a library card, which requires you to show a photo ID. The library will still charge for lost, unreturned, and damaged books. Late fees will also still be enforced on the electronic items Billings Public Library checks out.