Fremont Library officials considering ending late fees

  • Circulation assistant Christine Cerniglia, left, checks out books for the Sermeno family Tuesday at the Fremont Public Library in Mundelein. Library officials are considering eliminating overdue fines.

      Circulation assistant Christine Cerniglia, left, checks out books for the Sermeno family Tuesday at the Fremont Public Library in Mundelein. Library officials are considering eliminating overdue fines. Russell Lissau | Staff Photographer

 
 
Posted12/27/2017 5:30 AM

Fremont Public Library officials are considering eliminating fines for overdue books and other materials.

The Mundelein facility would become the fourth suburban library to ditch late fees. The others are the Vernon Area Public Library in Lincolnshire, the Ela Area Public Library in Lake Zurich and the Algonquin Area Public Library.

 

Fremont patrons are charged 10 cents a day for overdue books and most other late items. Daily $1 fines are assessed for some materials, including new video games, new DVDs and telescopes.

Overdue fines are a timeless library tradition. But these days, dime-a-day fines don't deter customers from keeping items beyond their due dates, Fremont Library Director Scott Davis said.

"The reason we do it just doesn't work," Davis said.

Library patron Julie Port agreed. The threat of fines doesn't stop her from keeping books past their due dates.

"I probably have a $3 fee on my account (now)," Port, of Mundelein, said during a library visit Tuesday. "I'm not going to rush over here for 10 cents."

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Additionally, the fear of fines prevents some people from using the library, Davis said.

"We don't want people to be gun-shy about coming in because the last time they had too many fines," Davis said. "Let's take out all the angst."

Davis began investigating the costs and benefits of eliminating late fees at Fremont after he attended a discussion of the subject at an American Library Association conference this summer.

The amount of revenue fines generate annually at Fremont wasn't immediately available. Typically the sum is 1 percent of a library's operating budget or even less, Davis said.

And collecting fines sometimes actually costs a library money.

When a patron uses a credit card to pay a very small fine, the credit card company's processing fee can exceed the amount of the fine, Davis said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Davis thinks the goodwill eliminating fines may create among patrons could be worth the lost revenue.

"Think of it like a marketing campaign," he said. "If people come away feeling better about their visit to the library, how much would you pay for that?"

Fremont Public Library board members are receptive to the idea but want some data before making a decision, Davis said. A discussion is expected at the January board meeting.

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