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Fine Free FAQs

In September 2020, the Library Board of Trustees voted to establish a six-month trial period during which an account block will be used instead of charging overdue fines. The trial period will run from November 1, 2020, through April 30, 2021. At its March 16, 2021, meeting, the Board of Trustees voted to extend the trial period to October 31, 2021, to allow for time to gather data now that Covid restrictions are changing to allow circulation of materials to be more typical.

During this period, patrons will not be charged overdue fines. 

Instead, a patron’s account will be blocked when an item is more than 14 days overdue. Patrons will be unable to borrow additional physical or digital materials if their account is blocked.

 

What does an “account block” mean?

If your items are not returned more than 14 days past their due date, your account will be blocked, and you'll be unable to check out any additional items until you return your items.

Please note, during COVID, materials must be isolated for 3 days prior to staff processing them for returns. This means that if your account is blocked, it will be an additional 3 days from your return for your account to be unblocked. But our staff are here to help, and will work with you as we trial this new plan.

 

If there are no fines, how will the Library ever get materials back?

This does not mean that the responsibility of returning Library materials goes away. Patrons are still asked to be a good neighbor and return materials on their due date so other patrons can enjoy them. Or, return them as soon as you can once you are done with them.

Instead of fines, we will use an account block model. Items will continue to have due dates, and if a patron doesn’t return an item within 14 days past the due date, that patron’s account will be blocked until the item is returned. When the item is returned, the account block will be lifted. 

Please note, during COVID, materials must be isolated for 3 days prior to staff processing them for returns. This means that if your account is blocked, it will be an additional 3 days from your return for your account to be unblocked. But our staff are here to help, and will work with you as we trial this new plan.

If the item is not returned within 45 days, the patron will be billed for that item. This is current library policy.

 

Are other libraries doing this?

Many libraries in Illinois and this region are going fine free. In CCS, the consortium of libraries to which the Park Ridge Library belongs, 20 of 28 library members are now fine free, including neighboring libraries Niles-Maine, Morton Grove and Chicago public libraries.

In interviews conducted by Library staff, area libraries who have gone fine free shared that they had a favorable experience implementing the policies. Some libraries have determined that establishing fine free policies as a positive investment in customer service and a way to provide equitable access to the community.

 

What financial impact will this have on the Library? Will taxes go up?

Fine revenue represents 1.17% of the Library’s total annual revenue. Based on FY2020, that’s an estimated $32,500 a year. This year, FY2021, the Library Board has not decreased services in order to make up for this decrease in revenue, with the total revenue budgeted at $4.3M. Should the trial prove successful, the Library Board will determine how to best account for this reduction in revenue for the next fiscal year.

 

What happens if items are lost or damaged?

The patron will be billed through their library account, and a block will be placed on the account until the item is paid for or returned.

 

How long can I keep an overdue item before their account is blocked?

Your account will be blocked if you have not returned the item(s) 14 days after the due date.

 

Can I still place items on hold even though my account is blocked? 

If you have an overdue block, you will not be blocked from placing holds. The block only applies to checkout.

 

Will I be charged overdue fines for items borrowed from other libraries through inter-library loan?

You will not be charged for overdue fines for items checked out at the Park Ridge Public Library.

 

What will happen to overdue fines charged to my account prior to the trial starting?

At this time, any fines accrued prior to November 1 will remain on your account and your account will remain blocked if you owe $10 or more in overdue fines. We ask that you pay for your fines online through your account or on our checkout stations.

 

What about items checked out from the Exploration Library? 

Items borrowed from our Exploration Library are not included in the fine-free trial. The fine for Exploration Library items will continue to be $5 per day.

 

Why did the Board of Trustees opt for a trial period?

Going fine-free is a relatively new policy given the long history of community libraries. The six-month trial period will allow for the gathering of data before a full policy change is considered. Will materials be returned in a timely manner? Will this serve Park Ridge better than fines? The Library Board considered all the options with Park Ridge’s best interests in mind, and they will continue that commitment with earnest consideration of data and community feedback in determining the outcome of the trial.

 

Why did the Board of Trustees vote to extend the trial period? 

Given all of the changes in Covid restrictions and the changes to the quarantine period for returned materials since November 1, 2020, extending the trial period to a full year will allow data to be gathered that will be more representative of typical circumstances. 

 

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