Sarasota County has eliminated fines on overdue books and other materials from the county’s library system.

There were two main reasons that led to the change: charging fines did not encourage people to bring back overdue items, and the fines actually prevented people from being able to use their library cards, officials said. Also, librarians spend a lot of time on issues involving fines — time that could be used doing other things.

Sarabeth Kalajian, the director of county libraries and historical resources, said her staff has become aware that people who are unable to pay the fines just stop coming to the library altogether.

The fines, she added, hurt people with financial issues.

“People who need to borrow books or computers, need public libraries the most,” Kalajian said.

Several parents, she pointed out, have told her they opted not to get library cards because they were concerned about accruing fines.

“We were disappointed when children came on field trips and could not check out books because their parents had not paid the fines,” Kalajian said. “We want to be supportive of that eagerness to read.”

Research conducted by her staff found that 24% of students ages 5-18 could not use their library cards because of overdue funds.

Kalajian, who will retire from her position later this month, said she hopes the removal of fines will improve access to library materials.

Sarasota County Commissioners approved Kalajian’s recommendation in a 5-0 vote this week.

The county libraries charge 25 cents a day for books and CDs that are overdue, and $1 a day for videos and DVDs. The patron’s account is suspended when fines reach $25. Library users still will be charged for lost or damaged materials.

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