Eastern Iowa libraries are expanding fine-free returns, with hopes of bringing more people in

Published: Mar. 12, 2020 at 4:31 PM CDT
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Libraries across eastern Iowa are preparing to go fine-free if items are returned late.

Libraries in Iowa City and Dubuque have had fine-free programs in place for about a year, and now more libraries are following the nationwide trend in 2020.

The Iowa City Public Library stopped implementing fines on materials for kids and young adults on June 1, 2019, at the beginning of the 2020 fiscal year.

Kara Logsden, the Community and Access Services Coordinator for the Iowa City Public Library, said between going fine-free and new student ID cards that double as library cards, they have seen more kids taking advantage of their resources.

"We wanted to take away barriers," Logsden said. "So the decision was made to take away fines for children, for items checked out from the children's and young adults materials collections at the library."

Logsden said their changes have brought more families to sign up for library cards and makes them more confident when checking items out that they won't be charged if it isn't returned exactly on time.

"We ask people to let us know what do you think?" Logsden said. "And the stories that came were just amazing- you know, 'I came back to the library because there were no fines.' 'I'm not scared about checking things out at the library anymore because there's no fines.'"

While Iowa City's program focuses on material for kids and young adults, the North Liberty Community Library will begin going fine-free for both kids and adults starting March 23.

"Fines are not an income maker for us," said Jennie Garner, the Library Director for the North Liberty Community Library. "Particularly it's under one-percent of our budget."

Garner said since 2015, the staff has been instructed to be lenient with enforcing fines- but now they are officially taking fines off the books.

"We had the policy where people could just, if certain staff wanted to they could delete fines- typically under $10," Garner said.

Garner said it is important the library can offer is allowing people to use the materials, but trusting them to return it.

"What we really want is to see people return the materials- that's our goal," Garner said.

The libraries will continue to fine if items are not returned after an extended period of time. Those fines typically cover a replacement item of whatever was misplaced.

The Cedar Rapids Public Library is also working to get rid of overdue fees, including in Hiawatha and Marion.

The President of the Library Board of trustees told TV9 in December 2019 fines do not work and that people most affected by the use of fines are those that need the library the most. The library announced in December they have plans to go fine-free around the metro starting in July.

The Carnegie-Stout Public Library in Dubuque also stopped issuing fines for overdue items. Instead, accounts freeze if library-goers have items seven days or more overdue. Those changes started in July 2019.