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Onondaga County libraries to stop charging late fees, will forgive existing fines

Onondaga County Public Library Executive Director Christian Zabriskie
Ellen Abbott
Onondaga County Public Library Executive Director Christian Zabriskie

Onondaga County libraries are going fine free, and will waive existing late fees, Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon announced Wednesday.

Eliminating fines for overdue materials is something the library system has been doing for years on a small scale, according to Onondaga County Public Library Executive Director Christian Zabriskie.

"We’ve already gone fine free for children under 18. We’ve already gone fine free for veterans,” Zabriskie said. “So this completes the circle. It’s for everyone."

The system that includes 11 city of Syracuse libraries and 14 suburban libraries will also waive all fees and fines that 26,000 patrons currently owe. That amounts to $283,000, but is less than .3% of the operating budget. Zabriskie said this comes as libraries recover from the pandemic, when they had to close doors and find other ways to reach patrons.

"We’re not seeing the bodies up to the level they were,” he said. “Although they are coming in and it’s wonderful to see them. But we are seeing more and more engagement, and a deeper engagement, particularly in areas where distance learning, electronic stuff, e-books. Those things are used far more now than they were."

Zabriskie said city libraries will drop fines, and he expects suburban libraries to follow suit soon.

"Suburban libraries are their own independent organizations. They have their own members and boards. This is a major effort going through the profession and industry," he said. “Our endorsement and the county endorsement is going to go a long way to help these boards in our suburban communities make these decisions as well.”

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.