When was the last time you read a book?

Not the digital kind. The hard-copy, real paper kind. For some the answer is "recently", but for many it's been a while.

Libraries want to bring people back through their doors and they're considering dropping those pesky late fines and fees to do so.

Colorado State Libraries recommends libraries across the state stop charging all fines and fees, with a focus on children's materials. They did a recent study showing there's not enough benefit from late fine revenues to outweigh increased circulation. They say in districts where there are no more fees, there has been a significant increase in families returning to the library.

Boy reading in library
Boy reading in library

9NEWS reached out to High Plains Public Library system in Firestone, Greeley and Erie. The system got rid of all library fines a little over a year and a half ago and the executive director says they see no reason to stop.

“We’re no longer having to finagle around or haggle around every ten cent fine," Executive Director Janine Reid said. "Instead, the conversation is all about how much they enjoyed reading the materials,

The High Plains Libraries still charge fees for lost or damaged items. They also charge fines for late DVDs. That brings in about half of the revenue they used to get from fees and fines, but Reid says some of that revenue loss is balanced by not having to pay for credit card machines and change sorters.

Books on shelves
Books on shelves

She also says the overall loss is insignificant in the overall budget compared to the impact of increasing circulation.

Reid says 95 percent of books are still returned within a week of the due date and there has been no loss of trust with the community.

CSL says nearly 20 libraries have decided to try removing fines on children’s materials only since the report came out in late 2016. They say Garfield County library did give it a try, but went back to charging fines for financial reasons. But CSL says most have been happy with the result of removing barriers.

A spokesperson for CSL said the motivation for ending fines was feedback from parents. In their focus groups, parents said they wouldn’t let their kids check out books because of the late fines.

Reid says they want to bring in more people and share a fun culture.

Mother and daughter reading book in bookstore
Mother and daughter reading book in bookstore

“We’re no longer a stuffy group of people with buns,” Reid said. “Although I do wear glasses, the library is a really vibrant, vital part of the community now.”

CSL says both Boulder and Denver libraries do not charge fines for children’s materials except DVDs. Boulder says they got rid of the children’s fines years ago.

Dropping the fines and fees is just one of several recommendations from CSL to help reach low-income families. They recommended things like staff training, creating inviting spaces and expanding collections based on local demographics. They also say libraries should reach out and partner with other community organizations to serve parents and their kids. Plus, they say library teams should work with parents to promote literacy at home.

CSL says the idea to drop fees has worked so well in some places, they are reaching out to other states to try to get it to go national.