PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Those with overdue books and other items won’t have to worry about late fees anymore.
That’s because the Peoria Public Library is celebrating International Literacy Day by no longer charging patrons for returning items past the due date, and past overdue fines are forgiven.
Fees for damaged and unreturned or lost items – past or future — will still apply.
Peoria Public Library Executive Director Randall Yelverton said the reason for the initiative is to give patrons a financial break during the pandemic.
“We are living through a historic economic crisis due to the global pandemic,” said Yelverton.
“Millions are out of work nationwide, and we’re grappling with 13.5 percent unemployment here locally. We have resources that can help people save money and get back on their feet, but only if people can access them so we are forgoing a source of revenue – fines – so that every Peorian can use Peoria Public Library.”
The fine-free policy was unanimously approved by the Peoria Public Library Board of Trustees.
“When we saw that our fines were disproportionately impacting lower-income families in Peoria, we felt compelled to make a change,” said Peoria Public Library Board President Lucy Gulley.
“We don’t want to lose the people who need us the most. Single parents with tight budgets and busy schedules. Kids reliant on their parents for a ride to the library. Teens with blocked cards because of fines who need the library for their research papers. We don’t want the problems of daily life to get in the way of a better life.”
In 2019, Peoria Public Library collected $48,703.05 in fines. Yelverton and the board are hopeful those fines can be recouped through donations.
“Accessibility is more important than anything. It’s why we exist,” Yelverton said. “Our entire community built this valuable asset; our entire community should have access.”
More than 200 libraries in the U.S. have either fully or partially eliminated fines, including Chicago Public Library and, more recently, Bloomington, Normal, and Champaign public libraries. Fondulac District Library in East Peoria also went fine free earlier this month.
Chicago Public Library saw a 240 percent increase in returned materials after wiping away patrons’ outstanding debt.
“Fears that people just won’t return items if there aren’t fines haven’t proven true at other libraries,” Yelverton said.
Eliminating overdue fines also doesn’t mean patrons can keep materials forever. Fees still stand for lost/unreturned or damaged items.
“This is the perfect time for past patrons to have a clean slate and renew their card and for new patrons to discover all we have without fear,” Yelverton said.
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