Lombard library to eliminate overdue fines

The Helen M. Plum Memorial Library in Lombard plans to eliminate overdue fines starting Nov. 1.

Library trustees on Wednesday voted to make the change. Rather than charging patrons a daily accumulating fine for overdue items, the library will create other policies to encourage the return or reimbursement of materials.

Ken Marshall, the vice president of the library board, abstained from the roll call vote. He expressed concerns about the policy change.

"I'm not really comfortable," Marshall said. "The concept of personal responsibility in getting books back on time still kind of sticks with me."

Sue Wilsey, director of strategic communications and marketing, says the library is following the lead of other library systems locally and nationwide.

"Addison, Aurora, Downers Grove, Glen Ellyn, Naperville are all community libraries that have already eliminated overdue fines," Wilsey said Thursday. "So we're basically joining the group."

Wilsey added that the American Library Association has been encouraging its members nationwide to consider finding waivers on accumulating fines, which can be seen as punitive, especially if fines grow beyond the cost of overdue items.

For example, some libraries have policies to freeze a card holder's ability to access a library's features if overdue materials are not returned. Another option is to bill patrons the cost of lost or damaged items after a set limit of automatic renewals.

The Chicago Public Library eliminated most of its overdue fines in September of 2019. It also created a system of automatic renewals for up to 15 times for select materials. Items must be returned if other patrons place a hold on them.

Helen Plum Library trustees went into more depth on possible policy changes at its August meeting. Research data also was shared from a 2019 study on the Salt Lake City Public Library system, which saw the return rate (failure to return items) drop from 9% to 4% following its elimination of overdue fines in 2017.

Helen Plum Library put in place a temporary policy of not charging overdue fines in July of 2020.

Wilsey said it was part of safety protocols put in place as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The library board plans to officially codify its policies around eliminating overdue fines at its next meeting set for Oct. 13.

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