Community Interest

The Library is Now Fine-Free!

by Tiffani Stewart
St. Charles City-County Library 

About those books you didn’t realize were late - some surprises are not so great.  

Maybe a library book was found under the bed after the stack was returned weeks earlier. Maybe it was a DVD that should have gone back to the Library, but instead was put away with the other movies you own. Maybe you were still reading a book when the due date came along – and then it felt like it was TOO late. (Is that book still sitting on your bedside table?) 

If you’ve been avoiding the Library because you were late returning your materials, it’s time to come back! There are no more late charges and customer accounts have been cleared of existing fines. Fine-free status is now available on all books, DVDs, CDs, magazines, and materials from the “Library of Things” - cake pans, WiFi hotspots, and more.  

Why did the Library make this decision? Jason Kuhl, Director of the St. Charles City-County Library says, “While researching the idea of offering a fine-free library to the community, we discovered that although fines do not represent a significant portion of the Library’s overall budget, they do act as a significant deterrent for those most in need of a library.” Research shows overdue fines disproportionately affect children, older adults, disabled and homebound customers, and lower-income households. “The Library is committed to serving all customers, whatever their age or economic status,” says Kuhl. “In addition, as Covid-19 has created upheaval in the economy, many are experiencing financial hardship as a result. By eliminating overdue fines, the Library hopes to help alleviate one area of potential financial stress for library customers.”  

Some of you may have concerns. You’re wondering what will happen to your wait times for items that others have checked out. Don’t worry…studies show that small fines do not motivate people to turn in materials any faster than they otherwise would. However, fines do keep people from returning late items altogether. Libraries that have gone fine-free are experiencing fewer lost items because customers who were afraid to return a late items are able to do so without financial consequences. Fine-free is a win-win. 

Please note, while late fines have been eliminated, customers will still be responsible for returning items and paying for lost or damaged materials. The Library will continue to send notifications and reminders about due dates. If materials are not returned within 28 days of their due date, they will be considered lost and replacement costs will be owed. 

So...come back to the Library! Late fines are finished! Isn’t that FINE news? 

All Library facilities are open to the public for limited hours and offer curbside/drive-up services (except the Kathryn Linnemann Branch). Room reservations, passport services, and in-person classes & events are temporarily cancelled, but virtual programming is happening now. Get the details here: myLibrary.org/covid-19