Library sees 240% increase in returned books after late fee elimination

By November 17, 2019 Libraries, News

Chicago Public Library system is now the largest in the USA to do away with late fees thanks to Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot.

The change was implemented on the 1st of October, and was intended to “remove unfair barriers to basic library access, especially for youth and low-income patrons,” but it had another surprising result.

Since the removal of overdue fees and clearing of pending charges on people’s accounts, libraries across the city saw a significant increase in returned overdue books.

According to the Chicago Sun Times, Library Commissioner Andrea Telli noted:

“The amount of books returned has increased by 240 percent…We’re very, very happy to have that. … Those books have a value and cost money to buy. We want those assets back. We also want the patron to come back.”

According to a press release from Lightfoot, late fees don’t work as originally intended:

“Research from other fine-free systems has indicated that fines do not increase return rates, and further that the cost of collecting and maintaining overdue fees often outweighs the revenue generated by them.”

Library spokesman Patrick Molloy confirmed that people simply choose to not return to the library when fines are too high, and the missing items are never returned.

“Fines truthfully haven’t been a revenue stream and weren’t designed to be a revenue stream. It was supposed to be an incentive to get the materials back, and the research shows that’s just not the case.”

Library patrons will still be required to return books when they’ve read them or they will have to replace or pay for them but no late fee will occur. As long as they aren’t reserved or put on hold, books checked out of the library will be automatically renewed up to fifteen times.

“Like too many Chicagoans, I know what it is like to grow up in financially-challenging circumstances and understand what it is like to be just one bill or one mistake away from crushing debt,” said Lightfoot. “The bold reforms we’re taking to make the Chicago Public Library system fine-free and forgive City Sticker debt will end the regressive practices disproportionately impacting those who can least afford it, ensure every Chicagoan can utilise our city’s services and resources, and eliminate the cycles of debt and generational poverty because of a few mistakes.”

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