116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Iowa City Public Library eliminates fines for overdue materials
Decision comes after library eliminated fines for overdue children’s and teen materials in 2019
IOWA CITY — The Iowa City Public Library has stopped collecting fines for overdue materials, joining other libraries across the country in a policy change that librarians say eliminates barriers to use.
The new policy, approved by the library’s board of trustees in February, went into effect Friday.
The library eliminated overdue fines for children’s and teen materials in June 2019. The library halted collecting fines for overdue materials at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. This policy change makes it official.
“The pandemic made it very glaringly obvious that this affects everybody,” said Sam Helmick, the library’s community and access services coordinator.
The change was made because overdue fines disproportionately impact children and low-income households, the library said in a news release.
“Libraries that have gone fine-free have reported less stigma and an increased likelihood for patrons to re-engage with their library and its services as a result,” the news release said.
In 2019, around 500 public libraries in the country had gone fine free, according to a report from the Cedar Rapids Public Library. Helmick said it’s exciting to see so many libraries going fine free.
The public libraries in Cedar Rapids, Hiawatha and Marion eliminated fines in 2020. Directors of those libraries said fines weren't effective in encouraging the return of overdue materials and prevented people from using libraries.
The public libraries in Coralville, Ely, Solon, West Liberty and West Branch are among the other libraries in Iowa that have eliminated fines.
In Iowa City, the no-fines change is not retroactive and does not eliminate unpaid fines that patrons already have on their accounts. Patrons with unpaid fines of $10 or more cannot check out materials or access digital resources.
If a patron loses or damages checked-out materials, that cost will still be billed to the cardholder’s account. Once the item is returned, however, no late fines will be charged.
More information about going fine free can be found on the library’s website or by calling the library at (319) 356-5200.
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