ESSEX — Library patrons don’t have to pay extended loan fees anymore, The Baltimore County Public Library announced Thursday.

Outstanding balances on library cardholder’s accounts have been removed, and extended loan fees are permanently discontinued, according to the library system, which encouraged customers who have not visited recently because of financial obligations or fear of accruing late fees to visit the library in a news release.

Under the new policy, overdue books must be returned in order to check out additional materials, but cardholders will not face financial assessments for returning items late.

If items are lost, cardholders will still face a $4 processing fee if it is 21 days past the due date, or damaged. However, if a fee is levied for a late item which is later returned, the charge will be removed.

Library Director Sonia Alcántara-Antoine said in a press release that “Library fines create barriers to access and hurt the people who need its resources and services the most.”

“Eliminating unnecessary fees levels the playing field for all in the community and it is exciting to be part of this structural change,” she said in the release.

According to the library, the fine-free model clears out fines from nearly 75,000 out of the county’s about 416,000 library card holders.

The county’s libraries are now reopened for service, with the exception of the Reisterstown branch, which is closed for renovations. Visitors are encouraged, but not required to wear masks.

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