The Evanston Public Library Board is scheduled to vote this evening on a plan to eliminate overdue book fines but continue to charge fees for lost or damaged materials.

In a memo to the board, Access Services Manager Tim Longo says the fine policy is costly to enforce and that libraries that have eliminated fines find the change effective “in building a positive relationship with their communities.”

Last year the library collected about $56,000 in fines, Longo says. That’s just 0.7% of the library’s $8.5 million budget.

He says 835 EPL cards have accrued enough unpaid fines to block the holder from receiving library services and most of the library’s blocked users “live in traditionally underserved areas.”

Longo says the change would reduce negative interactions between staff and patrons and increae efficiency by reducing time spent handling the fines at the circulation desk and in the business office.

If the board approves the change at its virtual meeting tonight, all outstanding fines would be waived, but outstanding fees for lost or damaged materials would remain on the patrons’ accounts.

Under the fee policy, once an item is 14 days overdue, a patron’s card is blocked from use. The patron is billed for replacement after 45 days.

If an item is returned before it’s 60 days overdue, the point at which the account is sent to collections, charges are removed and the patron’s card is no longer blocked.

If it is returned after that, at $10 collection fee is charged.

All EPL locations are closed now due to the COVID-19 pandemic and overdue fines are not currently accruing on any library materials.

Update 6:15 a.m. 5/21/20: The library board approved eliminating the fines at its meeting Wednesday night. 

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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