Iowa City library eliminating fines for children and teens books, video games

New policy starts June 1

Cliff Jette/The Gazette

Iowa City Public Library children's services librarian Morgan Reeves (from left) assists 7-year
Cliff Jette/The Gazette Iowa City Public Library children’s services librarian Morgan Reeves (from left) assists 7-year-old Phinn Gahn and his mother, Tamara Ewoldt, both of Iowa City, select a book in 2016. Starting on June 1 of this year, the Iowa City Public Library will eliminate overdue fines for children and young adult collections.

IOWA CITY — The Iowa City Public Library is joining a trend across the country to eliminate barriers and increase access for children and young adult readers by eliminating overdue fines.

The ban on fines, starting June 1 in time for the library’s summer reading program, only pertains to materials checked out from the children’s and young adult collections, such as books and video games, Kara Logsden, community and access services coordinator, said. These overdue fines were 25 cents per day.

Logsden said many libraries across the country and some in Iowa have stopped charging for overdue materials in recent years. A study from the Colorado Library Association shows fines don’t motivate individuals to return materials on time. Instead, the research found fines are a “barrier” for library use. Also, the American Library Association recommended libraries shouldn’t charge overdue fines because they restrict access, she said.

The library also reviewed what area of the city had the most blocked library accounts because of overdue fines and found the residents who lived the farthest away from the library had a higher proportion of students eligible for the school district’s free and reduced lunch program, according to library research.

“Creating financial barriers to public library use is counterproductive and goes against the library’s mission to encourage more use, not less,” Elsworth Carman, director of the Iowa City Public Library, said in a statement.

The library collected $52,737 in overdue fines on children’s and young adult materials in 2018, according to information given to the Iowa City Council in February. The money went back to the city’s general fund, not to library operations. To help support this change, it was recommended the library direct the “lost and damage” account of $16,167 to the general fund to help offset the loss.

The library board of trustees and Iowa City Council members approved the change in February.

Library officials said they will review the fine change after a year.

The cities that have stopped charging for all overdue materials includes Denver, Colo.; St. Paul, Minn.; Oak Park, Ill.; Nashville, Tenn.; and Salt Lake City, Utah, according to library information presented to Iowa City Council members in February.


The Iowa libraries not collecting fines include Burt; Atlantic; Thompson; Dunlap; Carroll, DeWitt; and Griswold.

Logsden said under the new policy, it doesn’t matter if children’s and young adult materials are checked out on a minor’s or an adult’s card, no overdue fees will be charged on materials from these collections.

This change doesn’t mean patrons don’t have to return the checked out items to the library, Logsden pointed out. A full replacement fee will be charged to an account if the materials aren’t returned. Items for a seven-day loan period will be billed at 14 days overdue and the 21-day items will be billed at 21 days overdue.

For more information, contact the Iowa City Public Library at (319) 356-5200.

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