Off The Shelf: Libraries and librarians, changing with the times

The North Olympic Library System is excited to announce it has joined a growing movement of libraries across the country that have gone fine free.

Why fine free, and why now? Libraries are not static institutions. They continually grow and change in order to better reflect the current needs of society and more effectively serve their communities.

Overdue fines create barriers to access, consume valuable staff time, are not an effective tool to encourage on-time return of library materials, and have negative impacts on library/customer relationships.

In addition, recent library trends, such as increased check out of eBooks (which don’t accrue fines) and automatic renewals, have gradually reduced the significance of revenue from overdue fines.

How does fine-free work? Starting on Sept. 1, NOLS in no longer charging overdue fines for items returned late, and all existing overdue fines will be waived.

“No fines” does not mean “no responsibility”! Replacement fees for lost or damaged items still apply, and other policy changes encourage patrons to return materials on time.

Find more information at

Great reads

Here are a few great reads that feature libraries and librarians serving their communities in meaningful ways throughout America’s history.

“The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek” by Kim Michele Richardson (2019 — fiction book).

In 1936, 19-year-old Cussy Mary Carter finds light in her lonely, hardscrabble life, delivering reading materials to the most remote hollows of Appalachia’s’ Troublesome Creek, as a New Deal-funded Pack Horse Librarian.

“The Library Book” by Susan Orlean (2018 — nonfiction book).

On April 29, 1986, a fire broke out in the stacks of the main branch of the Los Angeles Public Library and burned for seven hours, destroying 400,000 books and damaging hundreds of thousands more. Was it arson? Orlean’s investigation into the fire provides a fascinating look at arson forensics and the minds of psychopaths — as well as public libraries and staff.

“The Public Library” by Robert Dawson. (2014 — photographic essay collection).

There are more than 17,000 public libraries in America. The Public Library presents a wide selection of Dawson’s photographs of libraries from Alaska to Florida, New England to the West Coast, revealing a vibrant, essential, and threatened system.

“Library on Wheels: Mary Lemist Titcomb and America’s First Bookmobile” by Sharlee Mullins Glenn (2018 — nonfiction).

Who knew the history of the bookmobile was a swashbuckler? Mullins Glenn explores the evolution of libraries in the early 20th century and one woman’s crusade to make libraries accessible to rural areas and serve all people. Little known Lemist Titcomb pushed the boundaries of libraries and female librarians, changing the face of librarianship.

“Dreamers” by Yuyi Morales (2018 — picture book).

A young immigrant mother and her son find refuge in the comfort of their local library in an award-winning, autobiographical picture book. Striking, mixed media illustrations utilizing embroidery, traditional Mexican fabrics, and other objects create a vibrant homage to modern libraries and the power of stories and imagination to transform lives.

More info

For more information about fine free NOLS, visit or email to For more information about library programs and services visit, call 360-683-1161 or email to

Margaret Jakubcin is Library Director for the North Olympic Library System.

Off The Shelf: Libraries and librarians, changing with the times