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Overdue fine free FAQ

In September 2021 the Grimes Public Library will waive all existing overdue fines and discontinue the practice of applying overdue fines to items returned late. Here’s what you need to know:

 Why is the library eliminating overdue fines?

In January 2019, the American Library Association (ALA) passed a resolution that asserted overdue fines are a barrier to equitable access and encouraged libraries to eliminate them.

Part of our vision at GPL is to be the gateway to learning and information for all ages. By becoming a fine free library we go a step further towards attaining this goal.

The potential of accruing a balance of overdue fines can prevent some community members from checking out library items or even obtaining a library card. Studies have shown that overdue fines on library materials have no impact on ensuring that materials are returned on time. What research has shown is that lower income households (which are less likely to have books in the home and have a higher risk of lower literacy skills) are disproportionately affected by overdue fines and are more likely to have blocked library accounts.

We are committed to making our library as accessible as possible to those that need it most. We hope that eliminating fines will:

  • bring back library users whose library accounts are blocked due to unpaid overdue fines; and
  • encourage more people to sign up for a library card and use library materials without the fear of incurring overdue fines

In going fine-free, we are joining the ranks of many other public libraries across the nation. In the lead up to this decision, we carefully reviewed studies and articles about eliminating fines. Here are a sample of articles:

Doing Fine(s)? Fines & Fees by Jennifer A. Dixon, Steven A. Gillis

Long Overdue: Why public libraries are finally eliminating the late-return fine by Ruth Graham

Why Are Libraries Eliminating Late Fees? by PC Sweeney

What does this mean?

In September 2021, GPL will:

  • Forgive all existing overdue fines
  • Discontinue charging overdue fines
  • Fees for services (copy, fax, print, etc.) and lost or damaged items will remain. View Fee Schedule.

You can read our full circulation policy.

Does this mean I can keep items as long as I want?

No, customers will still be expected to return materials on time so that all members of the community might have access to them. We will continue to follow our notification system to help you remember when items are due back. If items are not returned in a timely manner the account will be charged the replacement cost and processing fee and the account will be blocked.

Timeline for a checked out item:

  • Two days before item is due: Courtesy notice delivered via email or text.
  • 3 days late: Overdue notice delivered via email or text.
  • 10 days late: Overdue notice delivered via email or mail.
  • 20 days late: Overdue notice delivered via mail.
  • 30 days late: Bill for item replacement cost and processing fee mailed.

I have long overdue items that are still in good condition, can I bring them back now without a fine?

Yes, please do! The overdue fines on these items have been waived, and we would be very grateful to have these items back on our shelves for others to use.

I found an item that I’m being charged for as “lost.” Can I bring it back?

Yes, please do! Fees charged to your account will be waived for items returned in a timely manner.

 How many patrons will this change impact?

Currently 3017 patrons owe a total of $45,597.73 in overdue fines. Of these patrons, 2074 are adult and 943 are juvenile patrons. Of this amount, $40,903.42 in fines are on accounts that have been inactive for over one year.

 This change unblocks my library card! How can I reactivate my library card?

You may be able to use your library card right away, but if your card has expired you will need to renew it by contacting us in person or by phone. 515-986-3551

I just paid my fine, can I get a refund?

Unfortunately we are unable to refund fines that were previously paid.

How will this change impact holds on library materials?

The effect on the number of holds and the length of time a customer spends on a hold list for an item is one element we will be watching closely. We will continue to send reminders to patrons to return their items on time, and items with holds will still not be able to be renewed.

Why is the library eliminating overdue fines at a time when they are also trying to raise money for a new building?

Funding for the construction of the new library comes from the City’s General Operating funds, Local Option Sales and Services Tax (L.O.S.S.T.), grants and donations. Donations to the new library come from voluntary community contributions, not mandatory fines.

How will the Grimes Public Library’s budget be affected?

This change will have minimal impact on our budget as the annual overdue fine collection amount is less than 1% of our annual budget. We will continue to collect fees for lost and damaged materials, deactivated hotspots, and library services such as printing, copying, and faxing. View Fee Schedule.

Can I still give money to the library in lieu of overdue fines?

Of course you can, and we appreciate your support! You can directly support us by donating to the Friends of the Grimes Public Library.