O'Fallon Public Library cardholders no longer accrue fines for overdue items!
The O'Fallon Public Library is no longer charging cardholders a daily overdue fine for items returned late. Under this new policy, items can be checked out for their standard loan period and, if eligible, renewed a number of times. Library cardholders are responsible for returning or renewing items to prevent their library card from being blocked.
You will receive a notification when your library materials are ten (10) days and twenty (20) days overdue to alert you that you must return or renew them. When materials are thirty (30) days overdue the library considers the items lost and will invoice you for the cost of the items and any applicable processing fees. Your library card will be blocked at this point, preventing you from renewing or checking out items. If you return the item in good condition, the replacement fee and processing fee will be waived. These fees become non-cancellable if the items are not returned within ninety (90) days of being overdue.
Why did we do this?
For starters, it's good for our community! Our community is stronger and healthier when people have access to programs, services, and materials they need to pursue their educational, career, family, and life goals. Libraries are a place open to anyone and everyone. We hope this will encourage prior users to come back to the library and attract new users to experience our offerings.
Secondly, it’s good for our relationships. When you walk through our doors, we want to do our best to help you, not badger you about a late fee. Going fine-free makes a trip to the library more pleasant for both you and our staff.
Libraries that have adopted fine-free policies found that:
- Library card registrations increased
- Borrowing of materials increased
- More library items were returned
- Students returned to the library to use homework resources
- Staff time was redirected from fines-handling to patron-focused services
What we believe.
We believe in providing access to knowledge for all. Eliminating fines for overdue materials means more people in our community have greater access to the Library’s vital materials, resources, and services. Late fines, no matter how small, are a very real and significant burden for low-income individuals, children, and families. These kinds of financial barriers can discourage many people who rely on the Library, which means they can’t access books required for schoolwork, use public computers or job resources, or simply have a safe, open, welcoming space to visit.
How will this affect the library's budget?
While the Library is always carefully watching its bottom line, any loss of overdue fine revenue is tiny compared with the good this new policy will do for the community. Overdue fines account for less than 1% of the library's overall income and going fine-free will not significantly impact the budget moving forward. In addition, due to the rise in electronic materials (which do not accrue late fines) and other factors, fines are not a sustainable form of revenue for the library. Above all, it’s worth it to us to forgo potential funds from fines to remove barriers to Library use.
Frequently Asked Questions
- When does this policy change take effect?
The policy goes into effect on April 1, 2021.
- Will my previous fines or fees be forgiven?
Yes. Previous overdue fines will be forgiven for O'Fallon cardholders. You will still be responsible for replacement costs for lost or damaged items.
Amnesty Note: On specific dates between now and July 1, 2021 O'Fallon cardholders can return any long lost or overdue item and have the late fees and replacement costs forgiven. Items must be complete and in a useable condition. Check our Calendar for dates and times.
- What happens if an item is not returned, returned damaged, or is lost?
If materials are 30 days overdue, the library will block the account and issue an invoice to the patron for the cost of the item(s). You will be unable to renew or check out any items, including digital content.
You will have 30 days to return the item or pay the replacement fee. If you return the item, the replacement cost and the processing fee will be waived. If you have lost or damaged item, you must pay the replacement cost and the processing fee.
When an item is over 90 days overdue the replacement cost becomes non-cancellable.
- Can I purchase a replacement for a damaged or lost item?
No. Replacement costs and processing fees must be paid for each lost or damaged item. We do not accept replacement items in lieu of payment.
- Will I be notified if an item is overdue?
Yes. You will receive notices when an item is 10 days and 20 days overdue.
Here are some great resources that explain the merits of a fine-free system, including how they help underserved communities, improve literacy rates, and make for a more equitable society:
- Libraries Are Going Fine-Free, Reasons to be Cheerful (article)
- Free is Key: Library Fines and Access, TED Talk (video)
- Why Some Libraries Are Ending Fines, The Atlantic (article)
- City, County Libraries Are Now Officially Fine Free, St. Louis Public Radio (listen/read)
- ‘We Wanted Our Patrons Back’ – Public Libraries Scrap Late Fines to Alleviate Inequity, NPR (listen/read)