St. Charles Public Library to drop fines for overdue materials
Starting July 1, the St. Charles Public Library will no longer charge fines for overdue materials.
At their May 11 meeting, St. Charles Library Board trustees unanimously approved the new policy following a presentation by library circulation services manager Jasmina Lapo advocating the library drop its fine policy.
"Our mission is to provide equal access to information," she told trustees. "And by having fines, patrons don't have access to that."
In addition, Lapo said overdue fines can create barriers to service and often stop people from using the library.
"People who end up having fines feel ashamed," she said. "Patrons will still be encouraged to return materials in a responsible and timely manner, but they will no longer be charged daily overdue fines on most items. With these new measures in place, I would hope that we would extend our services, reach more library users and welcome back those who haven't visited in some time due to unpaid fees."
Trustee Cynthia Steimle agreed.
"It certainly is not a significant revenue stream for the library and if it prevents lower-income people from feeling they can use the library or whatever, it's not achieving what it perhaps was intended to achieve," she said.
Currently, if materials are 14 days overdue, the account is blocked. The library annually collects about $30,000 in fines.
As Lapo noted, $54,642.90 in overdue fines have not been paid, with those fines accumulating since 1996.
"I hate to tell you, but we are never going to see this money," Lapo said.
The account is billed if the materials are 42 days overdue. As Lapo noted to trustees in the presentation, 8,685 St. Charles library patrons have outstanding fines, and 507 patrons are blocked because they owe more than $10. The total is $4,290.78.
"Our threshold is $10. which means that patrons who owe more than $10 will not be able to use library resources or check out materials," she said. "However, if they decide and go under the threshold, they would be able to resume library services."
Lapo said that 8,178 patrons have fines under $10. Those fines total $15,361.
In going fine-free, St. Charles joins other libraries in the area that have done the same thing.
"The only library in our area that's not fine-free at this time is Batavia Public Library," Lapo said.
The policy only covers fines. Damaged or lost items are not part of the policy.
"Patrons are responsible for replacement charges for lost or damaged items," she said.