SAN JOSE (CBS SF) – The Santa Clara County Library District has offered a New Year’s present to its patrons, by becoming the latest library system in the Bay Area to eliminate late fines.

Library officials said fines have been lifted for all materials, including books, magazines, music and movies as of Friday, expanding a policy that has already applied to children’s materials for years.

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Existing fines have also been forgiven, officials said, but fees for lost items will remain.

“Especially in tough economic times, access to public libraries are more critical than ever and eliminating late fines will certainly benefit our residents,” said County Supervisor Mike Wasserman, who is also chair of the Library Joint Powers Authority Board.

Wasserman also said that fines do not affect everyone equally, saying they “pose a greater barrier for those who may have a greater need for library services.”

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Officials said patrons may not see existing fines removed from their account until later this month.

Library officials have also launched an auto renewal system for materials that are not subject to holds and that have been renewed less than five times. Patrons would be notified by email if their renewals are successful.

Other Bay Area library systems that have eliminated late fines include the San Francisco Library, along with libraries in Contra Costa, Marin and San Mateo counties.

The Santa Clara County Library System covers Campbell, Cupertino, Gilroy, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Milpitas, Monte Sereno, Morgan Hill and Saratoga, along with unincorporated areas of the county.

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Library patrons with questions about their account can visit their website, call 408-840-3945 or text 833-209-6600 Monday – Saturday between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.