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Bloomington Public Library no longer charges overdue fines on items returned late, and all past overdue fines have been erased.

Why the change?

In 2019, the American Library Association passed a resolution in which it recognized overdue fines as a “form of social inequity” and called on libraries nationwide to find a way to eliminate these fines. Libraries throughout the United States – including Bloomington Public Library -- have heeded the call. Eliminating fines is now a growing trend in American libraries and is resulting in both increased visits and circulation.

Recent studies show that imposing fines neither teaches responsibility nor motivates borrowers to return items on time. Instead, it has been found that once fines are assessed, a patron is less likely to return to the library. And the mere idea that an overdue fine could be assessed is enough to prevent a person from registering for a library card and using the library in the first place.

The bottom line is that we want community members to use the library and its services. In this effort, the Bloomington Public Library Board of Trustees voted to remove the financial barrier imposed by the collection of late fines.

If there are no fines, what keeps me from not returning items?

Customers should make a habit of returning items on or before the due date. This is not just the right thing to do, it is how libraries work. The public library model is based upon a trusting relationship between borrowers and a valued community resource. Library staff trusts that borrowers will return items on time so others may use them.

Unfortunately, at some point, we have to assume the unreturned item has been lost. An item moves into the lost category when it becomes 28 days past due.

When an item is lost, the patron is assessed both a reimbursement fee and a processing fee.

If you are able to locate an item after it has entered lost status, please bring it back! If the situation has not been referred to a collection agency, the replacement fees incurred will automatically drop off your account, and you will be back to borrowing with no fines incurred.

However, if you wait too long your account may be referred to a collection agency.

Accounts which show a balance due of $50+ with items being 60+ days overdue are candidates for collection. At that point, a non-negotiable $10 collection fee is assessed to cover costs the library incurs by initiating the collection process.

Libraries that have removed late fines report few adverse effects on material return rates.

You say that past overdue fines have been erased. Does that include my overdue fines?

If you racked up some overdue fines in the past, you’ve got a clean slate.

However, patrons who’ve incurred fees pertaining to lost items, damaged items, or collections will need to settle their accounts to reinstate borrowing privileges.

To find out if there is a balance on your account, log into your account at bloomingtonlibrary.org, call our Circulation Desk at 309.590.6120, or ask staff at the library.

What’s the difference between a fine and a fee?

Fines are daily penalties assessed for the late return of library items.

Bloomington Public Library has eliminated fines.

Fees are:

Fees are still included as part of the library’s return policy.

How much money did the library make collecting overdue fines?

Bloomington Public Library has seen a consistent downward trend in the amount of collected overdue fines during the past several years.

Overdue Fines Collected by Fiscal Year:
FY17 - $45,100
FY18 - $43,700
FY19 - $37,700
FY20 - $31,100

Some of this decline can be attributed to the increased popularity of circulating eBooks, eAudiobooks, and streaming movies. These eMaterials return automatically and have never resulted in overdue fines being assessed.

Will this loss of revenue hurt the library?

The loss of revenue is minimal as the overdue fines collected in any given fiscal year make up less than 1% of the library’s overall budget.

Based on statistics from libraries which automatically renew eligible items checked out on patron accounts – a practice which Bloomington Library began implementing in April 2020 – it is estimated that Bloomington Library’s FY21 overdue fine revenue would have decreased by 30-67 percent from the amount of the overdue fines collected during FY20.

Those who wish to financially support the library are encouraged to do so via donations.

The library is automatically renewing items? How does that work?

Bloomington Public Library automatically renews eligible items up to three times.

Items that are not eligible for automatic renewal include:

The best way to keep track of the due dates for items checked out on an account is to log into the account at bloomingtonlibrary.org, call our Circulation Desk at 309.590.6120, or ask staff at the library.