Libraries throughout Ocean County are about to wrap up their first month of going fine-free. And so far, it's been business as usual.

"The materials are coming back," Kate Sanchez, a librarian in the Ocean County system, told New Jersey 101.5. "This is something that we're really excited to be doing for the long haul."

On July 1, the county scrapped overdue fines on late items at its 21 locations. Falling in line with recommendations from the American Library Association, the county believes the move will remove barriers to the libraries' resources.

Overdue fines are not effective, according to Ocean County Library — in fact, they may work against the libraries' goal to get materials returned on time, the system said.

When the library system was shut down by the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, it went fine-free before reopening in July 2020. At that point, nearly all materials that had been checked out — 99% of them — were returned.

The system joins a growing list of libraries throughout New Jersey opting to eliminate fines for late books. Spots like Jersey City Free Public Library, Red Bank Public Library and Union Public Library made the move since the onset of the pandemic. Others, such as Montclair Public Library and Bloomfield Public Library, did away with fines before the COVID-19 threat hit New Jersey.

The elimination of late fees doesn't necessarily mean people can take anything they want from the library and keep it for good. In Ocean County, for example, a book that's seven days overdue is considered lost, and the consumer would be billed for the replacement cost until the book is returned. Fees totaling $25 or more would result in the suspension of one's borrowing privileges.

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.

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