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‘Waive’ Goodbye to Fines: Clearview Library Expands Fine-Free Program

Clearview Library District News

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Life is busy. From shuffling kids to soccer games to trips to the mountains, our days can be a bit hectic and schedules don’t always align with library due dates. 

Overdue fines can create distance between us — even a small balance on an account can make you less likely to use the library — so we’ve extended our fine-free program beyond Children’s materials!

Now we’ll only charge overdue fines on new adult materials (materials added to the collection within the previous six months), video games, and Interlibrary Loan items. And, we’ll remove all other overdue fines from your account starting November 1.

“The extension of our fine-free program is one way we look to improve our community’s library experience and to increase library engagement,” said Director Ann Kling.

Libraries across the nation and state are removing fines. In Colorado, we join High Plains Library District, Loveland Public Library, Anythink Libraries, and Denver Public Library, among others, in the effort to remove barriers (perceived or otherwise) to library resources. 

“Libraries have noticed negative trends with ‘fine shame,’” explained Kling. “When fines are charged, it can create a barrier between patrons and the library — they stop checking out items and limit their engagement with the library. 

“This ‘distance’ can be magnified in populations that depend on library resources the most, hurting folks more in lower income brackets and fixed-income seniors.”

Libraries are seeing positive results. Salt Lake City found that checkouts rose 10 percent and new cardholders increased 3-5 percent

For those that worry that materials won’t return — Chicago found that in less than a month of going fine free, their returned book rates increased 240 percent. And, after removing fines, High Plains Library District found that 95 percent of materials were being returned within a week of the due date

“Since we removed the fines on Children’s materials in 2017, we’ve not seen an increase in lost or stolen materials,” Kling said. 

While there were many reasons that influenced this decision — including feedback from the Strategic Plan process — it ultimately boils down to access.

“We want library resources to be as easy as possible for all members of our community to access,” Kling said. “Removing fines is one way to meet that goal.”

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the difference between fines and fees?

Fines are a daily penalty charged for the late return of library items.

Fees are replacement charges for lost or damaged items, and may include service charges from referring the account to a collections agency, if left unpaid.

On which materials can I be charged an overdue fine?

Starting November 1, you will only be charged an overdue fine on new adult materials, video games, and Interlibrary Loan items. Our fee and fine rates can be found here.

What if I don't return my item on time?

After 30 days overdue, your account will be blocked from checking out additional items. 

If the item is new adult material, a video game, or an Interlibrary loan, you will be charged an overdue fine.

What about previous fines on my account?

Starting November 1, staff will begin to remove existing overdue fines on all accounts, with the exception of fines on new adult materials, video games, and Interlibrary Loan items. If you notice an overdue fine on your account, visit with one of our staff members to have it removed. Fees for lost or damaged items or service charge fees for referring your account to a collections agency will not be removed. 

How can I tell if I have a fee or fine on my account?

You can log on to your library account 24/7. Or, stop in to the Windsor-Severance Library or bookmobile, and a staff member will help you.

What if materials are never returned?

At 30 days overdue, an item will become “Long Overdue,” resulting in your account being blocked* until the item is returned. After 45 days, the “Long Overdue” item will become “Lost” in our system, and your account will be charged the replacement cost of the item. Returning the item will waive this fee. 

If you have $15 in charges or 10 or more overdue items, your account will be blocked*, as well. If you accrue more than $100 in fees / fines on your account, it will be referred to a collections agency. At that point, a $10 service fee will be charged. 

*When your account is blocked, you will be unable to borrow additional materials.

How much money does the library make from late fees and fines?

In 2018, library patrons accrued $55,911.27 in fees and fines, representing less than 1 percent of the 2018 budget. During that same period, we collected $25,650.45.

How was the decision made to eliminate fines?

The Clearview Library District removed all fines for Children’s materials in 2017, which resulted in no increase in lost or stolen materials. Based on community feedback, the results of the Children’s fine removals, and national library best practices, staff presented an analysis and recommendation to the Clearview Library District Board of Trustees to remove all but three fines. The Board of Trustees approved the decision at its September 2019 meeting.