In an effort to remove barriers to access, Peoria Public Library has joined a growing number of public libraries across the U.S. in adopting a fine-free policy. Starting Sept. 8, 2020, patrons will no longer be charged for returning items past the due date, and past overdue fines have been forgiven. This change is in accordance with the American Library Association’s recommendations to remove barriers to social equity. Peoria Public Library’s administration and board believe access to the library’s multimillion-dollar collection is the most important thing.
How does this work?
Only one thing is changing, but it is big news. Peoria Public Library will no longer charge you if you returns items late. At the same time, PPL encourages our patrons to return items in a timely manner so they can be enjoyed by all.
• Items checked out from Peoria Public Library will continue to have a two-week loan period and can be renewed for two more weeks up to three times or for a total of eight weeks.
• Patrons who have signed up for email or text alerts will be notified with a reminder three days before items are due.
• However, if items are NOT renewed, patrons will continue to receive successive overdue notices.
• First notice when items are five days overdue
• Second notice when items are ten days overdue
• A bill when items are two weeks overdue
• After two additional weeks, if the cardholder has checked out items with a total value of $50 or more, the account is sent to our collections agency. If items are returned at this point, any late fees will be waived, but the cardholder is still responsible for administrative fees for initiating the collection process, a minimum of $10.
So if people don’t owe fines what incentive is there to return things?
Eliminating overdue fines doesn’t mean people can keep things forever. Fees still stand for lost/unreturned or damaged items.
In 2019, the American Library Association passed a resolution determining that library fines are a form of social inequity, and they urged libraries nationwide to “actively move towards eliminating them.”
Since then, more than 200 libraries have eliminated overdue fines. Peoria Public Library has scrutinized how the fine-free policy has impacted early adopters, as well as how fines impact our patrons. We determined that fines disproportionately impact our lower-income families.
Further, libraries which adopted this new model experienced increased circulation, more visitors and new members. Chicago Public Library, as one example, saw a 240 percent increase in returned materials after wiping away patrons’ outstanding debt.
Peoria Public Library is now fine free, but I still have fines on my record?
As of Sept. 8, 2020, no new overdue fines will be assessed. Past overdue fines have also been erased from your account. If you still show a balance, it is because you have held onto materials so long past the due date that they are now deemed lost.
If you return “lost” items before your account is sent to collections, you will not owe anything. If, however, Peoria Public Library must try to recoup library materials via our collection agency, you will be responsible for paying any processing fees due to engaging the collection agency.
In 2019, Peoria Public Library collected $48,703 in fines – less than 1 percent of the library’s annual budget and 40 percent less than a decade prior in 2009.
Some patrons see late fees as a supplemental way to support library operations. Moving forward, we invite patrons to continue to donate to the library through Friends of Peoria Public Library, a nonprofit which supports library programming and event needs.
What’s the difference between a fine and a fee?
Peoria Public Library has eliminated fines, the daily penalty assessed for returning items late. These fines have ranged from 10 cents up to $1 a day, depending on the item.
Fees are for costs incurred by the library for:
• Replacing materials that are lost, unreturned or returned damaged.
• Processing charges for replacing materials.
• Processing charges for engaging a collection agency.
• All patrons are still responsible for paying fees as part of the library’s return policy.
Will the loss of revenue from fines impact the library and its services?
Peoria Public Library does not operate to make a profit. Our goal is to invest our funds into creating a collection of resources that meets our community’s needs – from research databases for students to children’s books to engage new readers to books, movies and music to keep lifelong learners engaged.
Peoria Public Library’s physical collection is worth an estimated $9.5 million and includes books, scholarly journals, magazines, movies, music and more. Our digital collection, which includes all those categories as well as multiple research databases, is worth an estimated $10 million.
Our entire community helped build this valuable asset; our entire community should have access.
While we do not operate to make a profit, the library is always seeking ways to serve our community better and a healthy budget allows us to hire trained staff, offer compelling programming and acquire new books and other materials for all Peoria residents.
For those who wish to help us with our mission with a financial contribution, we say thank you and encourage you to make a donation to Friends of Peoria Public Library.