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Downers Grove

Downers Grove library eliminates late fees

DOWNERS GROVE - The Downers Grove Public Library will no longer collect late fees on overdue materials in an effort to increase access and equity amongst its patrons, the library has announced.

The library will eliminate overdue fines on most library materials, including books, movies, CDs, and magazines. The library had previously implemented a Fine Free For Now policy to span from April 30 to Aug. 2, prompted by the library’s closure due to COVID-19.

The board of directors voted July 22 to make it a permanent change.

“Library collections are meant to be used. We want the books, movies, and music to circulate to our community members," said library Director Julie Milavec. "We want people to enjoy them without stress and the fear of fines.

“Overdue fines are a regressive method of raising revenue. They hurt the most those who can afford them the least, create stress-filled interactions and require significant amounts of staff time to manage. When many people are living from paycheck to paycheck, if they incur a big fine on their card, or one of their children’s cards, it can be enough for them to stop using the library, sometimes forever.”

Patrons are expected to return materials by their due date, however under the new policy there will be no late-fees charged for most materials checked out at the Downers Grove Public Library.

Library cards will be blocked when an item becomes 14 days overdue. Once the items are returned, the block will be automatically removed from the patron’s card. Items that are lost, damaged or 42+ days overdue will be automatically billed to the patron. All of the library’s borrowing limits remain, with most items having a three-week checkout, and two-time renewal limit. Items may be renewed online, over the phone or in person. 

Libraries transitioning to being fine free has become more popular as studies have reported that the individuals that are most impacted by the fines are the same individuals who rely on access the most.

After reviewing the library’s budget, it was determined that fines have typically accounted for only about one percent of the library’s total operating revenue. This amount continues to decrease after the library’s 2017 implementation of automatic renewals. Taxpayers will not pay more to the library as a result of this change. Instead, the library will save staff time and supplies as a result of eliminating overdue fines.

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