That lost library book we had almost managed to convince ourselves no longer existed. The book that became the second reason we’ve avoided going to the library since the waning days of the second Bush administration. (The first being Amazon, of course.)
At this moment, every library delinquent faces the same dilemma: return the erstwhile book, or put it back in whatever box it came from and pretend this whole unpleasant incident never happened. Weird questions start running through one’s mind: “Does the library stop trying to collect the fines at any point? Does compounding interest accrue? Can they charge a fine that exceeds the book’s replacement value? Can I be arrested for holding onto a library book for over a decade? Do I need a lawyer?”
As it turns out, library fines, generally speaking, don’t become a major financial hurdle. According to recent reports in The Wall Street Journal, the average fine is about 17 cents per day that a book is late – and are capped at $5, $10 or the cost of the books borrowed. But, as St. Paul Public Library Director Catherine Penkert told the publication, it’s not just about the money.
It’s the shame of having to face a librarian and sheepishly have to pull out a dollar bill and admit you are not able to handle the simplest possible adult responsibility.
“I didn’t even want to tell you, ‘I have fines,’” Penkert told the Journal of what she normally hears at work while collecting library fines from friends and family in the community, who usually wear a rather pained hangdog expression.
But perhaps the scourge of library fines is migrating to the past. This week, Chicago became the largest metro area to officially say no to library fines – joining St. Paul, Minnesota; Dallas, Texas; and Oakland, California – in what has become known of late as the library fee amnesty movement that has been quietly (they are libraries after, all) picking up steam in 2019.
September 12, 2019
Effective this week, anyone who checks out materials from the La Grange Public Library will no longer accrue late fees for materials returned after the due date.
Partially due to the introduction of auto-renewals on library items in 2017, overdue fine revenue has decreased significantly in recent years. This has put the La Grange Public Library in a position where late fee revenue has no significant budgetary impact, which helped make this change possible.
“We believe this will result in more equitable and increased access and utilization of our services, which is what the library is all about,” said Charity Gallardo, La Grange Public Library Executive Director.
“Late fees for overdue library materials serve as a barrier to access for those who can least afford it. They also tend to disproportionately impact children and families who often check out large numbers of materials and can find their cards blocked pending payment if those many items are even a few days late. This change means if our materials are returned for someone else to use, that borrower’s card returns to good standing and their access is restored.”
CHICAGO — Chicago’s public libraries will no longer charge late fees for overdue books.
The previous policy kept people from checking out books or using library resources like computers, if they owed more than $10.
As of Tuesday, Oct. 1, $3.9 million worth of late fees will no longer exist, and there will be no late fees moving forward.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot said youth and low income people are disproportionately locked out of the system because of the fines.
Checked out items will automatically be renewed up to 15 times. The only time the system will lock a person out is if they never return a borrowed book or item.
This will make Chicago the largest public library system in the country to have no fees.