CPL Eliminates Most Overdue Fines aka No one will return their books anymore
As you may have heard from the news and headlines “The Chicago Public Library is eliminating late fees!” I spoke with several librarians (who agree with me that no one will return their books anymore) and I’ve discovered that’s not quite accurate.
Chicago Public Library to eliminate late fees, erase debt and begin automatic renewals for up to 45 weeks
That’s a typical headline. Let’s clarify what’s going on here. Previously your book had to be returned in 21 days or you received a fine of 25 cents a day until it was returned. DVD’s had a 7 day check out period and $1 daily overdue fine.
No one will return their materials when they are on hold
Now the library will automatically renew materials for you up to 15 times as long as no one else has placed them on hold. Okay sounds great but what if it is a highly popular book that has multiple holds on it? I can keep it for as long as I like until I’m done with it and I will not be fined. If you have a hold on it you and everyone else waiting for the material will have to wait until I finally get around to returning it.
Wait there are fines – sort of
Unreturned materials will be marked lost 7 days after their due date. At that time, a fee for the replacement cost will be added to your account. Replacement fees for lost materials will be automatically removed from your account upon return of the materials. If you have an outstanding balance exceeding $30 on your account, you will be unable to renew materials or check out additional materials.
Okay so I can still take forever to return something as long as I don’t want to check anything else out. Still once I bring the materials back after 2 months, 6 months, a year the “lost item” charge is wiped out and I still don’t have to pay anything! So there is an incentive to eventually return something – if you are a regular library user.
No automatic renewal of ebooks
I have had several print books automatically renew lately and it does come in handy but it still does not apply to ebooks.
Doesn’t apply to Kids Museum Passes
Fines will still be charged on Kids Museum Passports and interlibrary loan items returned late. Kids Museum Passports and interlibrary loan items cannot be renewed.
If you are a regular library user there is some incentive to finally return materials. If you a waiting for something that is on hold you will now have to wait longer, probably much longer, than you used to have to wait. Why? If a book has for example 10 holds on it you used to have to wait 3 weeks (checkout length) x 10 holds or 30 weeks. Now because people don’t have the incentive (fines) to return it after 3 weeks that wait time could become 4 weeks (no fines) x 10 holds or 40 weeks. Or who knows how long. And non-regular users can check out anything and never bring it back.
I’m not sure how fines disproportionately impact those who most need library services. Everyone needs library services. You do not incur fines if your return your materials on-time. Just write down the due date (or tape up the slip with the due date that the library gives you when you check out) and return your materials on time and you will not incur any fines.
This is the latest budget I could find. There is no word on how the CPL is going to make up the new $1.7m budget shortfall. Plus fund the replacement of materials never returned.