Algonquin area library to stop charging overdue fines

ALGONQUIN — Library cardholders who miss their due dates no longer have to worry about bringing along some spare change when they return books late.

The Algonquin Area Public Library District plans to stop issuing fines for overdue materials from its cardholders. The new policy begins Sept. 15.

Those fines make up just less than $60,000 in revenue in the library’s $6 million budget, said Lynn Elam, administrative librarian.

“We think that we are pretty good managers,” Elam said. “We should be able to absorb that amount through effective management of resources.”

Under the new policy, if an item is overdue by two weeks, the library will send the cardholder a bill for the item and suspend the borrowing privileges until the item is returned or the bill is settled.

The library still will charge cardholders for lost or damaged items.

“We are interested in providing a premium service to customers and recognize we compete with the Amazon.com and Netflix ... [and] what can we do to set ourselves apart to show our community we’re most interested in providing a barrier-free opportunity to learn and enrich their lives,” Elam said.

“It’s similar to how Netflix operates,” Elam said. “We’ve adopted that to our own collection. We want to acknowledge that life is busy. You may not have the opportunity ... to return items. It’s a little forgiveness. ... We’re asking for a level of responsibility. Just bring it back.”

All other public libraries in the county charge overdue fines.

Elam said a typical checkout is three weeks, and there are options to renew that checkout two times for up to six additional weeks.

The library also sends reminders to patrons about returning or renewing materials three days before they are due.

“The point is, we’re extending the time customers can have materials, eliminating overdue fines, and asking people to just return items to us,” Elam said.

Fines in the Algonquin library district were 10 cents a day for items such as books, periodicals, audiobooks and music CDs, among others. The fines were 50 cents a day for items such as videocassettes, DVDs, Blu-Ray discs and video games, among others.

Discussion on whether to stop levying fines for cardholders began in January, Elam said.

The library also is waiving any overdue fines currently on cardholders’ accounts. The waivers only apply to materials checked out from the Harnish Drive Main Library and the Eastgate Branch Library, a news release said.

If cardholders borrow items from other library districts, they will be responsible for fines incurred according to the lending library’s fine policies, according to the news release.

Gary Christopherson, the library’s access services administrator, said the vast majority of overdue items are less than a week overdue.

“We recognize our patrons don’t keep overdue items very long,” Christopherson said. “We’re not going to lose our materials. We trust customers will return them.”


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