Austin City Council stamps out late fees for public library materials

Austin City Council voted to remove late fees at public libraries Feb. 17. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin City Council voted to remove late fees at public libraries Feb. 17. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)

Austin City Council voted to remove late fees at public libraries Feb. 17. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)

Austin Public Library patrons will no longer have to pay fees for overdue materials after City Council unanimously struck the penalties from the library system's code Feb. 17.

The move follows the city library commission's January recommendation to council to eliminate the "regressive and unnecessary" penalties that disproportionately affect lower-income Austinites. While starting at just $0.25 per item per day, late fees could accumulate across multiple materials and eventually prompt a hold on library privileges and referral to a collections agency.

“The Austin public libraries are among the last free spaces in our city, and the access to knowledge they provide is a major driver of equity in our city. Library fees are inequitable," Commissioner JC Dwyer told council Feb. 17.

District 9 Council Member Kathie Tovo, the measure's sponsor, said she hopes the change will expand library access and patronage around town.

The change applies to overdue adult materials only after such fines for children's materials were removed in 2019. Fees for lost or damaged materials still remain in place.


City financial staff estimate the fee update will reduce the library's revenue by around $300,000 this fiscal year, and by $350,000 in following years. According to the city, more than 15,500 library patrons had accrued fees from 2018 to 2021 alone.
By Ben Thompson

Austin City Hall Reporter

Ben joined Community Impact Newspaper in January 2019 after graduating with a degree in journalism from Northeastern University in Boston. He spent more than two years reporting on Montgomery County and The Woodlands area before moving to Austin in 2021 to cover City Hall and other news throughout the city. Contact Ben with questions, tips or feedback at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @BThompson_CI.