The Board of Trustees of the Park Ridge Public Library voted 5-4 at its September 15, 2020, meeting to approve a six-month trial of an overdue account block temporarily replacing daily overdue fines. The trial period would run from November 1, 2020, to April 30, 2021.
Under this trial period, library patrons who do not return an item within a time frame to be determined by the Board at its October meeting relative to the due date will be notified and the account will be blocked until the item is returned. If they are unable to return the item after 45 days, they will be billed for the cost to replace the item per current policy.
The Board of Trustees also voted to extend the current grace period for fine forgiveness to October 31, 2020.
Fine revenue for fiscal year 2020 was $32,483, representing 1.17% of the Library’s total revenue that year, and 0.75% of the budgeted revenue for FY2021.
“Park Ridge has the opportunity to trial a block model during this 6 month period to see if it performs well for the community,” said Library Director Heidi Smith. “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 I know they will continue that commitment with earnest consideration of data and community feedback in determining the outcome of the trial.”
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. Smith noted in an August 11 presentation at the Board of Trustees’ Planning and Operations Committee of the Whole that some libraries have determined “fines are not a good return on investment and they see establishing fine free policies as a positive investment in customer service and a way to provide equitable access to the community.”
In early 2019, the American Library Association passed a resolution establishing that the “imposition of monetary library fines creates a barrier to the provision of library and information services.” According to the 2010 census, four percent of Park Ridge residents live under the poverty line; establishing a fine-free policy would give all community members equitable access, Smith noted.