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FINE FREE: Waterloo, Cedar Falls libraries no longer charging overdue fines

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CEDAR VALLEY, Iowa (KWWL) - The Waterloo and Cedar Falls Public Libraries are turning a new page. Beginning Jan. 1, they're getting rid of overdue fines on most materials.

They will no longer collect overdue fines that were previously accrued, either.

“We understand that life happens and that it can be difficult sometimes to return items on time to the library," Cedar Falls Public Library (CFPL) Director Kelly Stern said. "We also recognize that assessing monetary fines is not the most effective way to manage borrowing periods, nor is it fair to patrons with limited incomes.”

Nick Rossman, the new director at the Waterloo Public Library (WPL), said the American Library Association passed a resolution in January 2019, urging public libraries to stop charging overdue fines. In the past year, many libraries across the country have adopted the new policy.

With the changes, leaders hope people will find the library more accessible and enjoyable, while also giving patrons a clean slate.

"We're excited that it's going to open up opportunities for people to come back in to the library for stuff that they returned late," Rossman said. "They return the items, [they're] here and other people in the community are able to use them again."

WPL ran numbers and found 30% of youth were blocked from the library because they broke overdue fine polices. Rossman hopes getting rid of late fees brings people back to the library.

Both libraries still encourage patrons to return their materials on time. If you have an item that's overdue, to keep you accountable, the libraries will place a hold on your account, preventing you from checking anything out until you return or renew it.

Other libraries across the country have found the fine free policy successful, according to Rossman. He said studies show people are more inclined to return their overdue books when they can't access the library's resources verses having to pay fine.

Overdue fines previously accounted for about 1% of WPL's yearly budget, which amounted to about $24,000 in revenue. Rossman said the library is confident they'll be able to get that money back in other ways.

Earlier this month, the Hiawatha Library Board also changed its late fee policies. Marion and Cedar Rapids are looking to do the same. Those changes could start in July.

WPL Policy:

  • If your item is overdue by seven or more days, WPL will place a hold on your account
  • If your item is overdue by 28 or more days, WPL will bill your account
  • Patrons will still be responsible for lost or damaged items
  • The only materials that will still carry overdue fines are non-traditional items: digital slide converter or rock tumbler

CFPL Policy:

  • Checkout periods will remain the same, but once a patron has an item overdue, they may not borrow more materials until the overdue item is renewed or returned. 
  • Overdue fines accrued before January 1, 2020 will be waived.
  • Patrons will still be charged for lost and damaged items. Charges for past lost and damaged items will remain on patrons’ accounts.
  • The only materials that will still carry overdue fines are a few high-demand, non-traditional items: tech items and musical instruments in our Library of Things.
  • All other materials will be fine-free.

MORE INFORMATION

WPL:

CFPL:

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Olivia Schmitt

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