If there's no late fee, why would I return it promptly? Or at all.

That was one of the fears of a new policy implemented in 2020 at the Cedar Rapids Public Library: no more overdue fees. But as KCRG reports, a presentation was given by the library board recently, saying that despite those initial fears to the contrary, people are still returning things and doing so "on time". And it's eliminating a lot of unnecessary extra work for the staff.

It's fun to hear those stories about how years later, someone finds a lost book they checked out from the library, but even without a strict penalty, it appears no one is keeping stuff out for exorbitant amounts of time just because they no longer have to pay for it.

According to KCRG, the library board released a report saying:

Patrons do not return materials any later than they used to. They place an unnecessary burden on low-income patrons and block access to the folks that need it the most. Beyond the numbers and statistics, staff do not have those thousands of negative interactions about overdue fines and can focus on transformative work and equitable service

Before the elimination of overdue fines, there had been a rise in blocked library cards due to late fees. Due to the intended free and accessible nature of the library being more beneficial to those who can least afford to pay those fines, it was an incredible barrier. The library seemed to penalize people for a minor offense, often due to circumstances beyond their control.

Now, the library will only report late items worth $20 or more to a collection agency, and only 25 days after notifying the person who checked out the items. Cards are now also only blocked if there is more than $20 worth of overdue material checked out. The number of cards blocked has since plummeted from 16,000 to below 8,000.

Most items can also be renewed up to twice either by using the library website, or mobile app (for those who have access to that technology), by phone at (319) 261-7323, or in person.

According to KCRG, at the Iowa City Library, there are no overdue fines, but it's limited to kids. North Liberty has no late fees for everyone, and other places like Marion and Des Moines are reportedly implementing similar policies.

Sometimes, a little compassion, trust, and flexibility go a long way.


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