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The Oak Lawn Public Library has joined other libraries in the south suburbs that have recently decided to drop fines for borrowed materials that are returned late. (File photo)

The Oak Lawn Public Library has joined other libraries in the south suburbs that have recently decided to drop fines for borrowed materials that are returned late. (File photo)

Oak Lawn Library drops fines for late returns

By Kelly White

The Oak Lawn Public Library has joined other libraries in the south suburbs that have recently decided to drop fines for borrowed materials that are returned late.

The official start to the fine-free era was October 3 at the library, 9427 S. Raymond Ave.

“We have been working to increase access to our community members, and to identify and reduce barriers that exist in our services,” Thomas Javorcic, Communications and Marketing Manager at the Oak Lawn Public Library, said. “After careful consideration and with feedback from many of our neighboring libraries who are already fine-free, we felt the next step is to eliminate overdue fines permanently.”

This does not mean that patrons can keep books or library materials forever.

Patrons must return library materials in a timely manner so other community members can use them, too. Most items will automatically renew up to two times if there are no holds.

However, after an item is 14 days overdue, a person’s library account will be blocked from further use until he or she either returns the item in good condition or pays for the lost item.

One way to think of the library being fine free is perceiving it as an extended grace period, staff members said.

“We still want you to return items on time, but don’t want you to have to worry about, or be penalized for, returning items a few days late,” Javoric said.

Prior to going fine-free, the overdraft fees were 10 cents per day per book and $1 a day for any media materials.

Staff members at the library are hoping to see an increase in returned items with patrons knowing they will not be penalized by returning them late.

“The community will benefit most by removing barriers to borrowing our materials,” Javoric said. “It has been proven through statistics that fines on overdue materials do not increase the returns, and more often reduce returned items. We like that it sends a more welcoming message to our patrons and the community.”

Even with the eliminated fines, patrons may still see a fee on their library accounts. Here is the difference: A fine is a daily accrual of money owed to the library for items being overdue; whereas a fee is an amount of money billed to an account for lost, damaged, or unreturned library material.

The library is forgiving all past overdue fines, and removing future overdue fines, but staff members will not waive any fees for lost or damaged items. If an item is not returned, is lost, or too damaged to be used by others, the cost of the item will be billed to the patron’s account.

You can still accrue overdue fines on items that were checked out at other libraries within SWAN that are not fine free. SWAN is the System Wide Automated Network that has been serving Illinois libraries since 1974 and today has a membership of 100 libraries throughout the Chicagoland area.

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